UNF faculty create petition to ban any RNC activity from campus

Siddie Friar, Reporter

In a preemptive move, faculty at UNF have created a petition asking for a ban on any and all RNC activities at any campus facilities for the convention this August. 

The petition cites two main reasons for this request. 

First is that the current administration’s policies and perspectives are antithetical to UNF’s Mission and Vision statement specifically, but also to higher education as a whole. 

From the petition, “UNF must not host an organization whose platform is built upon utter disregard for the public interest and whose nominee has proven himself inimical to our core values: pursuit of truth and knowledge, ethical conduct, diversity, responsibility to the natural environment, mutual respect and civility (as enumerated in UNF’s Mission and Vision statement).”

Second, the petition cites the convention as a cause for public health concern. 

“Even absent the divisive, dehumanizing politics of Trump and the RNC, it would be grossly irresponsible for UNF to allow any large outside group to utilize our campus spaces as Covid-19 continues to spread. The virus itself has taken a disproportionate and deadly impact on the same minority communities that Trump has targeted politically—communities to which many of our students, staff, and families belong; further, our wider UNF community includes a significant number of at-risk students, staff, and faculty.”

The petition was originally drafted as a resolution by history professor Norman Rothschild. It was sent to the Faculty Affairs Committee in the hopes they would vote to move it forward to the Faculty Association for discussion. 

The resolution was shot down, receiving only three votes. 

“Nonetheless, I am hopeful that the UNF President and Administration will show real leadership and choose to do the right thing, and make intelligent, responsible choices that protect the health and well-being of the larger UNF community,” Rothschild said. 

“They are no doubt aware of how reckless and dangerous—from the vantage of public health—it would be to stage a large-scale event at the very beginning of the school year, just as students are returning from all over the state, the country, the world. In terms of spreading the coronavirus, this sort of event would create the perfect storm—bringing in, at this juncture in late August, a group with zero regard for public health protocols.”

The petition went live on change.org towards the end of June. Currently it has 286 signatures from faculty, staff, students, and alumni who agree that banning any RNC events from UNF’s campus is in the best interest of both the campus and the city.

“We do not need to promote any further racism and bigotry that the RNC will bring to UNF’s campus,” UNF Junior, Almaas Bannister said.  “UNF administration should do everything in their power to avoid this from taking place on our campus.” According to a constitutional law specialist from the faculty, it would be illegal to deny access to campus facilities to the RNC. However, Rothschild pointed out that the university can and has denied access to the facilities on the grounds of public health in other instances.

“One of my colleagues wanted to hold a wedding reception with fewer than 50 people on campus in May (and again in late June),” Rothschild said, “on both occasions, with no students on campus, the request to rent/use a room on campus was denied on the basis of COVID concerns. I have no problem with that decision. It would be blatantly inconsistent and hypocritical to hold a far larger event with students on campus!”

The faculty hope that their position will be taken into consideration should such a request be made. 

“We don’t want to endanger students, faculty, or staff on campus,” English professor Bart Welling said. “ We also really don’t want the University to do anything to support a president who, in my opinion, is basically a proto-fascist, and his enablers who are hell-bent on trying to destroy Democracy.” 

Welling also indicated that there seemed to be an air of fear around the resolution when faculty were presented with it. That the resolution was a sort of ‘hot potato, and while they didn’t want their names associated with it officially many voiced their support privately.’

It is unclear what, if anything, President Syzmanski intends to do with the RNC, making this a ‘wait and see’ situation. 

As Florida’s Covid-19 cases continue to rise, and fall plans for a return to campus continue to shift, it is unclear whether or not the leadership of both the Mayor and Governor will push forward with bringing this potential ‘super spreader’ event to town in the first place. 

A poll released by UNF’s Public Opinion Research Lab early this summer, showed that 58 percent of polled Duval residents strongly oppose the RNC coming to town in general. 

This petition shows that there are those among UNF’s faculty and student body who are in staunch opposition to linking UNF to the RNC in any way.


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