For many students, the Institute of Black Culture was just a landmark on the UF map.
However, after John Johnson was hired as the IBC director, things changed dramatically for black students. IBC became appreciated for its historical value and relevance as a home for the black community.
Under Johnson’s directorship, the IBC coordinated a number of exceptional and engaging programs. He organized meetings and retreats for student leaders on campus to help them better serve their unique audiences.
He spent many hours in the office planning events like the Black Student Leadership Conference, which did a phenomenal job of promoting professionalism, etiquette and networking skills. His commitment to IBC promoted much more traffic and opportunity to uplift in the community.
Johnson did not just do his job — he made himself physically, mentally and emotionally available to students. Conversations with him inspired in students new perspectives, love for their identities and histories, and pride in being a scholar. Under his leadership, the IBC became a sanctuary for intellectual growth and minority unification.
Despite his many triumphs and recommendation letters lauding his wonderful performance sent to his superiors, Johnson received a negative performance evaluation after his first six months on the job. Feeling underappreciated, Johnson sought employment elsewhere and resigned from his position as IBC director.
No effort was made by the UF administration to support Johnson while he was here or when he made himself available for negotiation after receiving a job offer from another institution.
News of his leaving caused much frustration and anger in the hearts of many students, but it also raised some questions: What is the process for evaluating staff and faculty at UF? Did the administration consult students — those affected most by Johnson’s leadership? Does the administration understand the influence his position had on the community?
It seems that his evaluation and subsequent departure were treated like business as usual, and student voices were ignored. But under no circumstances will this be swept under the rug.
To avoid any confusion, Johnson explained that he was leaving UF after 11 months of work “because his work conditions were not affirming.”
He loved his job and the people he served enough to occasionally clock 50 or even 60 hours in a week to make a difference.
I cannot understand why this talented professional was negatively assessed or why nobody made an effort to keep such a valued community resource.
This happened because UF’s Division of Student Affairs, and Multicultural and Diversity Affairs in particular, operate with impunity and have no one to answer to when making decisions about how best to support underserved communities.
So starting today, I think we must hold Multicultural and Diversity Affairs and the Division of Student Affairs accountable.
We must demand that these questions be answered and changes be made to prevent a similar loss from happening again.
We will not acquiesce.
We will be loud about our position on the matter until there is change.
Mirland Terlonge is a fine arts senior at UF. You can contact her at email@example.com.