UF President Kent Fuchs announced a pause in day-to-day work Tuesday to encourage faculty and staff to reflect on racism in America following the death of George Floyd.
Fuchs asked for June 10 to be a day for employees to consider their actions and how they can better educate themselves on racism, according to the statement.
The day is part of a nationwide movement called #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia, where scientists, researchers and academics halt “business as usual” to act against racism and advocate for the needs of black scholars and STEM professionals, according to the campaign’s website.
In the statement, Fuchs also encouraged faculty and staff to participate in #Academics4BlackLives, a professional initiative from June 19 through 25 started by Academics for Black Survival and Wellness.
Della Mosley, an assistant professor in the UF psychology department, launched the initiative with her doctoral advisee, Pearis Bellamy. The two worked closely to organize a week centered on providing resources for black people and anti-racist education for people who do not identify as black, Mosley wrote in an email to The Alligator.
She said President Fuchs’ decision to bring attention to the program was great, as it can give faculty and staff the chance to better understand the racism they are witnessing. Participants will go through training to gain practical skills and develop personal plans to become the allies that their black colleagues need, she said.
Mosley said she can’t take this time to reflect as she is actively involved in the fight for black lives. She is working hard in the midst of grief and anger to make sure the week is as impactful as possible, she said.
“People have to learn what anti-black racism is,” Mosley said. ”How to recognize it in and around them, and how to dismantle it if they want black people to survive and be well.”
UF spokesperson Steve Orlando said the pause reaffirms the university’s commitment to having difficult conversations and creating a community where African Americans can have full access to the resources and opportunities the university provides.
“We can and will do better at providing researched educational and professional development opportunities that augment and enhance what offices and colleges on campus have been doing to develop anti-racism workshops, implicit bias training and professional development on the topic,” Orlando wrote in an email.
Michelle Cardel, an assistant professor in the UF College of Medicine, said she took the day off to read “Stamped From the Beginning” by Ibram X. Kendi, a former faculty member in the department of history at UF. Kendi’s book discusses the history of racism in America.
Cardel said she appreciates the university’s decision to give faculty and staff a day dedicated to learning and growing, as it has allowed her to evaluate her role as a white woman in combating racism.
“We were supposed to have a faculty meeting today, and my department chair canceled it in order for us to utilize that time for our own growth and learning,” Cardel said. “So I think it shows dedication from the university.”
While Cardel said it’s important for the university to provide that time to reflect, she said she hopes UF’s next step is to implement actual anti-racist policies.
“We very much need anti-racist policies put in place,” Cardel said. “But I do think it's an important first step, getting this recognition from the leadership. Awareness is kind of the first step for moving in the right direction.”
In the midst of grief and anger, Della Mosley said she is working hard to make the week as impactful as possible.