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President Szymanski and Student Government respond to national demonstrations

Darvin Nelson, Features Editor

UNF President Szymanski and Student Government emailed students with a letter regarding the demonstrations and movements across the nation.

Letter from President Szymanski:

“Dear Osprey Community,

I am writing you this letter with a heavy heart, and to share with you my deep pain, sorrow, and outrage at the senseless murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mr. Floyd’s unjust death has become a symbol of the persistent discrimination and violence perpetrated against black people and other communities of color in our country. This continued injustice against underrepresented communities needs to stop now!

At the University of North Florida, we wholeheartedly reject hate in all its forms. We must all rise above hate and find meaningful ways to address the systemic racism that threatens the very fabric of our society. At UNF, we remain extremely committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment on our campus, and welcoming all of our students, faculty, and staff regardless of race, ethnicity, faith, national origin, range of abilities, sexual orientation or gender identity.

For our students, faculty, and staff of color, please know that your Osprey family is here to support you. We recognize the impact of racial trauma and acknowledge the pain, anger, sadness, frustrations, fear and other emotions you must be experiencing during this difficult time. We stand in solidarity with you against systemic oppression and will actively seek ways to create inclusive environments where all people are valued, respected, and free from fear and harm. 

For our students, faculty and staff not of color, please self-reflect, educate yourself about your biases, whether they are conscious or subconscious, and use your knowledge to help make a positive difference.

During this difficult time, we encourage all members of the UNF community to seek support and take time for self-care. For more information on UNF’s many diversity initiatives, support services, and resources, please visit both our Department of Diversity Initiatives and Commission on Diversity and Inclusion.

Finally, I encourage all of our Ospreys to lend support, advocacy, and love to the marginalized members of our wonderful community. As Ospreys, we always rise above hate.”

-David M. Szymanski.


Letter from Student Government:

“Dear Ospreys,

It’s our sincerest wish that we were greeting you under better circumstances. This is our first email to the entire student body, so we’ll introduce ourselves.

Our names are Ally Schneider and Kayla Dougherty, and we are your Student Body President and Vice President. We took office in early April. I (Ally) am a senior majoring in Sociology and Political Science, and I (Kayla) am a senior majoring in Philosophy and Political Science. We’ve both been in Student Government for quite some time.

It would be naive to act as if nothing’s wrong in our country, state, and local community. To experience the level of instability that we have over the past three months is disorienting. How can we focus on schoolwork when it can feel like the world is falling apart?

There has never been a more critical time for student advocacy. The number of crises we are facing seems to increase by the day. But we are here to tell you that we will never stop fighting to make sure your voices are heard—whether it be to make sure students without health insurance can still get tested for COVID-19 or that students who raise their voices against racial injustice are protected. We cannot promise you anything other than that we will never stop fighting for you in every single meeting, committee, and conversation.

We’ll be communicating with you as much as possible. You deserve to be informed, and we’re committed to facilitating that. If there’s anything we can do to help you or answer your questions, please email us at [email protected] and [email protected] We’re here for you.

Despite these confusing, heartbreaking, and outraging circumstances, UNF students have shown that we are resilient. We help each other, we guide each other, and we stand up for what’s right. We are proud to lead your Student Government, but more than that, we’re proud to be a part of you. Fly hard and swoop often.”

-Ally Schneider and Kayla Dougherty.


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

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    Chris GauronJun 30, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Your letter is almost well spoken ,excepting that you forgot to mention age discrimination that I’ve repeatedly brought to your attention prior. Your words ring particuarly hollow as many areas of regulations and policies at the equal opportunity have been brought to your attention over the last two years and treated as threats to cease and desist civil rights complaints regarding access to education. This remains the pattern at every step.