A welcoming environment essential to the university

President W. Kent Fuchs
July 18, 2016

Dear Students:

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.

  • Students needing space to coalesce, find support, or build community, may seek MCDA’s Black Affairs at the Institute of Black Culture (IBC—1510 University Ave) or the Black Enrichment Center (BEC) in Suite 2220 Reitz. Feel free to contact Black Affairs Director Vee Byrd at veeb@multicultural.ufl.edu or Black Affairs Program Coordinator PJ Jones at pjj@multicultural.ufl.edu.
  • Faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni are here to support you in whatever ways you need. If you are looking for faculty or staff of color in certain departments or alumni to help you navigate the UF environment, please contact Vee Byrd at veeb@multicultural.ufl.edu or the Executive Director of MCDA Dr. Lloren Foster at laf@multicultural.ufl.edu. For more information, check out the website at http://blackaffairs.multicultural.ufl.edu/.
  • Students looking to get involved with culturally specific organizations may reach out to Student Activities and Involvement (SAI) in Suite 3001 of the Reitz. https://www.studentinvolvement.ufl.edu/default.
  • For students who need help refocusing academically, please seek the services of the Office of Academic Services (OAS) in 311 Little Hall. For more information go to http://oas.aa.ufl.edu/.
  • Suggestions for how UF can enhance its academic environment to be inclusive and more fully support all students should be shared with Dr. Angela Lindner, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, alindner@aa.ufl.edu.
  • The Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) has culturally sensitive staff who can assist in its two locations: Peabody Hall and on Radio Road. For more information, see http://www.counseling.ufl.edu/cwc/.
  • The Bias Education Response Team (BERT) is ready to respond to students who are victimized or who witness an incident of bias or a hate crime. Please report using this link.
  • Students requiring immediate physical assistance on campus should dial 392-1111. For related issues, please consult http://www.police.ufl.edu/. Under the direction of Chief Linda Stump-Kurnick, the UPD staff is working tirelessly to ensure the safety of all students. UFPD prides itself on treating ALL students with respect in their efforts to serve and protect the UF community.
  • If you are concerned about the well-being of a fellow Gator or yourself, contact the Dean of Students Office’s UMatter: We Care seven days a week at umatter@.ufl.edu.
  • If you need advice on how to maintain your cultural identity in the workplace as you look for employment or need career counseling, contact the Career Resource Center (CRC) on Level One of the Reitz. For more information, see the CRC’s website at https://www.crc.ufl.edu/.

 

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.

Warm regards,

 

Kent

W. Kent Fuchs
President, University of Florida