LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The Texas Tech Black Student Association has released a statement in response to public feedback following the announcement of two scholarships in memory of Timothy Cole and George Floyd.
Timothy Cole, a student at Texas Tech University whose statue stands at 19th Street and University Avenue across from campus, was convicted in 1986 for a rape that later evidence showed he did not commit. Cole served 23 years before dying in prison in 1999. George Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis Police in May of 2020, sparking protests in Minnesota and across the country.
The announcement of the new scholarships on Monday, September 14, came from the office of University President Lawrence Schovanec, saying: “In light of the call for racial equality and justice in our nation, we believe that access to higher education is a means to address both.”
With the statement from the Black Student Association released Wednesday, the organization says feedback they received regarding the scholarships was positive and negative, but they hope their statement “provides clarity towards our purpose for these scholarships and what we’re trying to achieve at Tech.”
Many who spoke against the scholarship said they understood honoring the memory of Timothy Cole, but questioned the inclusion of George Floyd; citing a previous criminal record and allegations about Floyd’s state at the time of his arrest.
The statement reads: “Floyd’s death sparked a shift in our world, one that opened many people’s eyes to systemic racism, police brutality, and racial injustice that affects the lives of Black and brown bodies around the world; it is important for us to encompass these struggles through these scholarships.”
“We want to express that despite their respective backgrounds, they are a part of a larger picture that encompasses the unfair treatment of minorities in this country,” the student organization said. “There is a need for active change in how Black and brown people are seen, heard and treated. By being a catalyst for change, Texas Tech University is taking a stride in the right direction with their contribution to these scholarships.”
The announcement of the scholarships comes alongside recent actions by students from the University calling for changes or standing in solidarity with movements speaking out against systemic injustice.
Earlier this month, Texas Tech student athletes on the football team stepped away from practice for two days to sit down with community leaders and discuss positive change in the community, joined by athletes and staff of various sports in the school. In August, students and alumni of the university’s School of Theatre and Dance issued a call to action with reports of systemic racism in the department.
While the University says the scholarships have been started in partnership with engaged alumni, donations have already begun on the website set up by the Black Student Association and Texas Tech.