First Meeting of FSC Diversity Task Force

Jun 25, 2020

by Dr. Anne B. Kerr
President

Since the appalling death of Mr. George Floyd last month, I have shared that the College is committed to achieving heightened equality, justice, and inclusion on our campus. 

An important step in this direction occurred yesterday when the College’s newly charged Diversity Task Force held its first meeting via Zoom. The members of the task force — who are students, faculty, alumni, staff, trustees, and from the Lakeland community — reflect the diversity of the College.

The task force is chaired by Trustee Evett Simmons, who is an alumna, attorney, author, national leader for diversity initiatives, and naming benefactor for our Simmons Multicultural Center. Trustee Simmons led a candid, thoughtful, and meaningful discussion about how the College will bring racial equality, inclusion, and respect throughout the campus.

“When there is something hurting, you have to take care of where the hurt is so the healing process can begin,” Chair Simmons said at the meeting. “Our job as ‘physicians’ at Florida Southern College is to help with the healing. We have a mission and the mission is to heal our College.”

Although this was just its first meeting, the task force championed significant action. The committee met with in-depth discussions regarding immediate and long-term actions. Additionally, the task force unanimously endorsed the following actions I directed:

  • New Chief Diversity Officer. Ms. Wilhelmina Tribble, of Lowe, Tribble & Associates, has agreed to serve as Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Advisor to the President. Ms. Tribble will help guide the work of the Diversity Task Force and the College’s efforts to better embrace racial equality and inclusion.
  • Reporting Racial Bias. We have launched a new process to make it easier to report incidents of racial bias on campus. Simply visit www.flsouthern.edu/justask and click on the “File a Report” link to start the reporting process, which includes an option for anonymous reporting.
  • Black Student Union. I have met with students via Zoom and shared our commitment to creating a Black Student Union at the College. It will provide a vital venue for voices to be heard. I anticipate the BSU will be operational when students return to campus this fall.
  • Banning Confederate Flag. After hearing about this issue from many people, FSC will ban the Confederate flag on campus. This change will be codified in our student and employee policies with additional details in the coming weeks.
  • December Commencement Speaker. I am so pleased that Dr. Mae C. Jemison will be Florida Southern’s Commencement speaker in December. In 1992, Dr. Jemison became the first African American woman to travel into space. In addition to being a NASA astronaut, she is an engineer, physician, and the 2019 Florida Southern College Honorary Chancellor.

The next meeting of the task force is July 8. Stay tuned for future reports about the task force’s progress, including information about how your voice can be heard.

I have received many thoughtful emails and letters the past few weeks. In one of them, a talented student wrote: “We ask that Florida Southern listens and acts because change is no longer a want, it is a need.”

I agree completely.

I am deeply committed to listening to the voices of our students, particularly our Black students, so that they will receive positive living, learning experiences on campus. In doing so, we will strengthen the College as a whole.

The first meeting of the Diversity Task Force was a strong movement in that direction.

In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to proceed purposefully and intentionally to attain a new level of inclusivity and support for our Black students and all members of our community.

Warmly,

Dr. Anne B. Kerr
FSC President

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