New assistant director at AASU raises questions, makes history


The African American Student Union welcomed athletic training freshman Torey McCleskey as its new Assistant Director with open arms. The unspoken question is how McCleskey, white by race, works for the AASU?

Giovannie Medina, public relations junior and student body vice president, hired McCleskey based on the criteria outlined: the candidate must work very hard and be fully aware of the responsibilities being assigned, show strong leadership skills and be a successful team player. Medina said McCleskey met the requirements best, regardless of his race.

“Questions will always be raised when we’re making history,” Medina said. “This decision speaks to the main goal of AASU.”

The AASU constitution states “The African American Student Union (AASU) is responsible for the development and implementation of cultural enrichment through activities and educational workshops that reflect the various interests of the University of North Florida student body with a special focus on the African American culture. We do stress, however, that it is a culturally based organization open to all ethnic groups.”

McCleskey said while the name of the agency may make it seem like it is only for African American students, he believes it is growing into something bigger.

“We have expanded from the original AASU — which concentrated mainly on African-American culture — to worldwide cultural awareness to eliminate differences,” McCleskey said.

McCleskey’s addition to the AASU team sets an example for the rest of the students that AASU’s doors are open to all, Medina said, thus promoting cultural diversity and awareness.

“I think it’s a shame when people come in and ask ‘What’s a white guy doing working for AASU?’ rather than asking for my credentials first,” McCleskey said.

McCleskey presented his resume in front of the Student Government board where his selection took place.

“What do you think when you hear African American Student Union?” Sitou Byll-Cataria, Student body president asked. “A body of African Americans, right? AASU invites people of all ethnicities to come together, and I think Torey’s addition will attract another part of the student body to AASU. It will open doors to those who question whether this is solely an African-American agency.”

AASU’s involvement with Black History month kept the entire staff busy. McCleskey’s dedication and hard work at the events showed the Student Government he was apt for the job, Cataria said.

“We are indeed making history,” Cataria said.

McCleskey lived in Bonaire, Netherlands, where the population is mostly dark-skinned. While living there, he said he faced multiple instances of discrimination and feels as though he knows the struggle African-Americans and others may face here.

“I’ve been through it all too, I just don’t see why skin color should matter at all.”