University of North Florida announces diversity-focused changes
During an emotional candlelit virtual vigil Wednesday night, the University of North Florida announced several changes to address racial inequality and bias.
The university appointed alumna Whitney Meyer as its first vice president of Diversity and Inclusion. Meyer will advise UNF leadership on inclusion and racial equality.
Meyer had been working in the president’s office managing several programs to improve diversity on campus, including the Community Alliance for Student Success and the Fearless Woman Initiative. She will continue directing these initiatives as vice president.
UNF President David Szymanski voiced his confidence in Meyer helping the university uphold its values of “mutual respect and civility.”
The newly created position is one of several initiatives UNF is taking in response to calls for inclusion on college campuses across the country amid the national protests about racial inequality and police brutality. The university also announced it is introducing anti-racism education that will be mandatory for freshmen and incoming transfer students.
“If we want things to change, the work ahead has to be different. It will require a level of commitment and challenge,” student affairs specialist Kalilah Jamall said.
Meyer also will oversee other programs such as the LGBT Resource Center and the Department of Diversity Initiatives.
“I hope to uplift underrepresented voices in our community and act as an agent of positive, united change,” Meyer said.
During the livestream, UNF students and faculty voiced complex feelings on recent protests, ranging from anger to hope to exhaustion. Jamall spoke at the beginning about the grief and fear she feels for her fellow black co-workers, parents, siblings.
“Tonight we will honor, mourn and advocate,” she said. “But first, I have to tell you, I am tired. And if you are joining me tonight, you are tired as well.”
Similarly, Associate Dean Christopher Johnson elaborated on the complicated feelings he is having as well. He told the audience to remain hopeful for change even as they are mourning.
“My heart aches as I think about George Floyd crying out, ‘I can’t breathe,’” Johnson said. “My heart aches tonight but I still have hope.”