George Floyd Endowed Scholarship Creates Mixed Opinions

Recipients announced for scholarship, causing a Facebook storm


Audra Grigus, Senior Reporter

On May 25, 2020, Minneapolis resident George Floyd was killed by officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department. This act of racism and police brutality prompted anti-racist protests throughout world, and prompted further anti-racist action within the Hamline community. Two Hamline University alumni from the Class of 2009 stepped forward with an anonymous gift of $50,000 to establish the George Floyd Endowed Scholarship

The endowment was created to “advance social justice through access to education at Hamline University for first-generation African American and Black college students,” and will be available for students to apply for in the future.

“It’s another way to talk about equity,” said Associate Vice President of Inclusive Excellence, David Everett. “Equity in the sense of who has access to resources and who doesn’t, who needs them most, and how do we create some of those equitable changes in some of the systemic things that we do as institutions.This scholarship is a way for us to continue the conversation around social justice and activism and challenging our students to think about becoming change agents, not just in the immediate community that they’re in but then also globally when they leave Hamline.”

The recipients of the scholarship, senior Damyn Hultman, senior Savior Allen-Knight, senior Yasmin Hirsi, sophomore Ilhan Omar, and sophomore Khalif Ahmed, were announced August 28 on Hamline’s media platforms. 

In response to the Facebook announcement, alumni and parents of Hamline students stepped forward to voice their own opinions, some of which were not in favor of the scholarship’s creation. One parent saying, “I’m shocked they would celebrate a criminal.”

Stepping into the Facebook fray to stand in defense of the George Floyd Endowed Scholarship was Jayda Bagstad, a senior pursuing a major in criminology and criminal justice with minors in social justice, legal studies and psychology.

“If you see anything that’s wrong, call it out,” said Bagstad. “There’s no more room to be racist in 2020.”

For two hours, Bagstad and others defending the scholarship commented back and forth with those in opposition. The commenting subsided when a parent said any further comments should be referred to their private inbox for their attorney to review. 

“That exchange is just a microcosm of what was happening in society at large when you have differing points of view about the situation,” said Everett. 

The next day at 2:36 p.m., a statement was made by the Office of Marketing and Communications, based on the current draft of Hamline’s new Statement of Civility

“We can say that this is what we believe in, and we can advocate for that position, but we are not in a position where we shut down an opposing point of view,” said Director of Communications Jeff Papas. “We can be clear and say that this is what we believe and that’s what we did. That’s why the George Floyd Scholarship was established in the first place; it was because alumni had a strong desire to create change and the university said ‘yes, we agree with that desire.’”

The response to the Facebook posts was drafted by a team made up of Papas, Everett, Dean of Students Patti Klein and Public, Media, and External Relations Specialist, Christine Weeks.

“You don’t want to make the problem worse, and sometimes, you know, challenging that person, feeding the troll makes the problem worse,” said Papas. “You’ve heard the phrase, ‘don’t feed the trolls.’ There’s a balance to be found, and that’s what we, as communicators, are responsible for finding.”

The statement of civility is on track to be finalized this fall. This statement of civility will be the basis for response in the event similar instances happen in the future. The George Floyd Endowed Scholarship has already started receiving donations from alumni, faculty and staff for next year’s recipients with $32,850 accumulated.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misnamed Derek Chauvin as David Chauvin.