In front of a crowd of about 100, UF President Kent Fuchs said this semester has been the most unique he’s seen in his time in higher education.

“This has been a semester of external threats,” he said.

At a town hall hosted by the UF Black Student Affairs Task Force on Tuesday in the Reitz Union Rion Ballroom, Fuchs discussed the many threats UF has faced in Fall. He referenced the executive order ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and the affected students, the arrival of white supremacist Richard Spencer on campus on Oct. 19 and Hurricane Irma.

The town hall included a panel of members of the president’s cabinet, including Fuchs, Vice President for Student Affairs Dave Parrott, Interim Director of Freshman and International Admissions Chandra Mitchell and Vice President for Human Resources Jodi Gentry.

Fuchs described the town hall as an opportunity to make UF stronger by being more inclusive.

At the event, Multicultural and Diversity Affairs Director Will Atkins discussed the state of the Black Student Affairs Task Force and MCDA as a whole.

Atkins said the task force is working toward creating a website focused on inclusion opportunities at UF, which he said will launch in coming months.

After Gentry discussed UF’s work to hire its first chief diversity officer and its efforts to create a department assessment on inclusive behaviors, students had the chance to ask the panel questions.

Camille Okonkwo, a 20-year-old UF business administration sophomore, spoke about wanting to increase the minority student populations at UF. Mitchell responded by saying the admissions office received more total applications than in prior years, and they received 500 more applications from African American students than last year.

Ernesto Godinez, a 20-year-old UF African American studies junior, asked Fuchs what UF should do to move past recent events that have put racial issues on the forefront, he said.

“I pray it doesn’t come — no more flyers, no more nooses, no more uninvited speakers,”  Fuchs said. “But I think we should be prepared.”

Students also expressed their desire to bring in more minority faculty members, as UF dedicated to hire 500 new faculty members in the next three years.

Fuchs described the current demographics at UF as unacceptable.

“We need to make progress,” Fuchs said. “Progress is hard, but we need to do it.”

Godinez said he appreciated the opportunity to have an open conversation with administration at UF.

“We have to go at them because they do want feedback, and they do want criticism so they can do their jobs better,” he said.  

@camille_respess

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