GRAND FORKS -- North Dakota’s higher education leader sent a letter to campuses about the death of George Floyd and the need for a “heightened awareness” of how black students may be feeling during this time.

Chancellor Mark Hagerott said that in his five years as leader of the university system there have been many conversations about inclusiveness and diversity of all minority students, most commonly in the context of Native American students.

“Now, in light of the senseless killing of George Floyd, we have a heightened awareness of how black students, faculty and staff here in our state may be feeling,” he wrote.

Floyd died after he was pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer, who has since been charged. The incident has led to nationwide protests about police brutality and race relations.

Hagerott said the system encourages “open and perhaps difficult conversations during this time of mourning and reflection.”

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He also pointed to a number of policies and procedures in place that try to ensure that North Dakota campuses are an environment “free of discrimination or harassment.”

“During this challenging time, I commit myself, and I ask our campus leadership along with my own team here in the state Capitol building, to continue to reflect upon these recent events,” Hagerott wrote.

Hagerott encourages people to reach out with recommendations about how the North Dakota University can “better promote diversity and the well-being of students, faculty, and staff of color.” He said those recommendations can be shared with campus diversity leaders or directed to him at mark.hagerott@ndus.edu.

UND President Andrew Armacost is preparing to establish a special university task force on race, gender and diversity. The special university task force has a “bold charter to identify process, practices and everyday actions that lead to equitable outcomes," he said. It will begin to take shape in the coming weeks and into the beginning of the school year.