Gonzalez speaks out on his firing after 18 years at UNF

Hannah Lee

Mauricio Gonzalez dedicated 18 years of his life to students at UNF. As Vice President of Student and International Affairs, he oversaw the development of several programs dedicated to students. On Aug. 13 at 4:00 p.m., everything changed. Gonzalez was called into President David Szymanski’s office. It was there that he was ‘let go’ and told his position was being abolished.

Gonzalez was planning on retiring in the fall of 2019.

According to Gonzalez’s termination letter obtained by Spinnaker, Szymanski indicated to Gonzalez that he had one to two weeks to vacate his office. His final day on UNF’s payroll was Oct. 27.

To Gonzalez, his firing came as a complete shock.

“I was going to retire in a year. In November of 2019 was probably the day. I thought I would need to let Dave know that I will be leaving,” Gonzalez said. “I never thought that I would be fired and be treated the way I was treated after so many years.”

Gonzalez told Spinnaker that when he was called into Szymanski’s office, Vice President and General Counsel Karen Stone was there. Having a witness to a firing is a common business practice. He was told he had to clear his desk.

An email from Mauricio Gonzalez to UNF Human Resources Director Greg Catron.

Why was Gonzalez shown the door? According to Gonzalez, he was told that his firing would help improve metrics.

“My firing doesn’t explain the metrics,” Gonzalez countered.

Gonzalez also told Spinnaker that he was overseeing many projects that were still ongoing, including creating a demonstration kitchen for both academia and wellness initiatives on campus, as well as revisions to the code of conduct.

Shocked, heartbroken and slightly angry were the emotions that Gonzalez left the University with. However, he does wish Pamela Chally, the interim provost and vice president of student and academic affairs, the best.

“I think that it’s a big division,” Gonzalez said. “It’s close to 20 departments. They doubled the work of Pam Challey.”

What does the former vice president plan on doing with his time? The goal is to travel.

“My wife and I will be taking some international trips. I’m still volunteering for the Arts Cultural organization downtown,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t have any plans because I thought I would have a year to plan it.”

Former UNF President John Delaney said that Gonzalez was a terrific vice president and will always be a dear friend to him.

In my 15 years, we always worked well with our student body, and for that I give him a lot of thanks. We never had a student/administration conflict that we didn’t work out.  Each of the Student Government Presidents became personal friends to both Mauricio and me,” Delaney said. “His Advisory Committee became strong advocates for UNF and our students. I congratulate his long successful career at multiple schools.

Student organizations, such as Student Government, have spoken out about Gonzalez.

“Although Dr. Mauricio Gonzalez has left the university his passion for students has not. Dr. Gonzalez was an integral part of Student Government and all that Student Government has achieved over the past eighteen years,” Student Body President Jenna DuPilka said. “He was our most prominent advocate and always listened to our students.”

Delaney also explained to Spinnaker how new presidents will want to create their own teams according to their own management style.

“Many schools consolidate those functions; many further sub-divide. Subject to shared governance inputs, the organization of the university is the President’s call,” Delaney said. “President Szymanski is working quickly to put his stamp on the university and my best wishes go to him.”

Spinnaker reached out to Szymanski for comment, however, the interview was declined.

We don’t discuss personnel matters,” the email from Joanna Norris, director of the Department of Public Relations, said.

Some of the projects Gonzalez helped establish during his time at UNF are:

  • Military and Veterans Resource Center
  • Taylor Leadership Institute
  • LGBT Resource Center
  • Catastrophe Fund for Students in Need (also known as the Emergency Fund)
  • Parents Association
  • Confucius Institute
  • SAILS Scholarship
  • Ropes Course
  • APA Accreditation
  • Sculpture Park in Jacksonville beach
  • Organizational Infrastructure for Student Government
  • Peace Corps Prep Program
  • Thrive Program
  • Student Affairs Community Council
  • Director of Development for Student Affairs
  • Travel Clinic
  • Boardwalk
  • Expansion of Fraternity and Sorority Life
  • Expansion of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
  • Ogier Gardens
  • Wellness Complex
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Statue
  • Gandhi Statue

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