As a faculty member at UNF, one of my great passions is working with and supporting our students. As we all know, it is exam week and our students are hard at work studying and completing our exams. Last week was world aids day and our LGBT center was handing out condoms. Someone not part of our community came on campus and started targeting and intimidating our students during this stressful period.
He was specifically targeting individual students and saying hateful things based on gender and sexual orientation. For instance, he targeted individual female students who were wearing yoga pants and told then that they would be going to hell. He also targeted individual LGBTQ students and also told them that they were going to hell. Members of the University Police Department (UPD) were present while our students were harassed and intimidated, and they did not intervene.
I have been told by General Counsel that targeting individual students, as this individual did, is a violation of UNF policy for outside groups exercising free speech on campus. Students who were targeted reported not being able to concentrate and take their exams to the best of their abilities. Some even reported skipping class or going home. Their ability to participate in educational activities is restricted by being individually targeted by this individual.
What advice does the FA President have for faculty to support students targeted by an individual in this way? What can we do when these students come to our offices or classrooms, upset and looking for support? What should we expect UPD to do in support of our students?
Partial answer from the Floor by FA President Radha Pyati
My advice for faculty would be to provide the most supportive environment for students so that they feel that they are in a safe space. I can discuss this issue with Tom VanShoor, Dean of Students, and representatives of the UPD to determine what can be expected of the UPD and student conduct code in such circumstances. The Faculty Association can provide a short version for faculty regarding the limitations of the conduct code so that we can express to students what is expected in this situation. The provision of a supportive environment is an expectation that we need to fill for our students. I will follow-up a more complete answer and provide a summary regarding these policies to which faculty can refer.
Partial answer from the Floor by Interim Provost, Pam Chally
In situations like this, we should lean on our Counseling Center. They are open every day and can provide support for our students in these situations.