In my relatively short tenure here at UF, I have spent a great deal of time listening to and learning from students, faculty, and staff. Some of what I have learned has brought me great joy and reassured me that UF is headed in the right direction, and some of what I have heard lets me know that there is much to do to create an environment where every member of the UF community has access to opportunities for success and everyone feels supported.
I am glad that Gators come in all different colors, religions, genders, orientations, and backgrounds, and my goal as president is to enhance and support our wonderful diversity. To that end we are creating infrastructure, staffing, and policy initiatives to show that we care about ALL Gators. Unfortunately, and despite these efforts, many individuals at UF do not feel supported, welcomed, included, and/or safe in our classrooms, residences, departments, or other spaces on campus.
Recent events have opened old wounds for people of color and in particular for African-Americans at UF. These events, coupled with the concerns identified in the Black Student Affairs Task Force (BSATF) report and in meetings with the Association of Black Faculty and Staff (ABFS) and with the Black staff in the Division of Student Affairs have informed my own understanding of the less-than-welcoming experiences of Black students, faculty, and staff. Many noted the depths to which African-American students are feeling unsupported by faculty, staff, University policies, and other UF students, especially in times of pain and crisis in the Black community.
The University of Florida must be better than this. While there is work to do, as evidenced in the BSATF recommendations, town halls with Black faculty and staff, and UF’s campus climate survey for faculty and staff, efforts and initiatives to address student concerns are in process, as are efforts to address systemic issues that contribute to the less-than-welcoming atmosphere for African-Americans. Some will take time; others can progress quickly.
Currently, there are a number of resources available for African-American students and members of under-represented and “minoritized” populations.
I hope students who continue to experience the negative effects of the events in the news or on campus will find support or solutions through these resources. While no one group, office, or department can create the embracing campus culture we need, we can make UF a better university by listening to each other, caring for one another and by working together.
We want all of our students to have every opportunity for a wonderful UF experience and education and to have an environment where they can thrive and succeed. As President, and working hand in hand with our committed students, faculty and university leaders, I will do my utmost to make UF a more supportive and caring university.
W. Kent Fuchs
President, University of Florida