Following the month's tense protests at University of Missouri, UCF SGA is standing in solidarity with Mizzou student activists who have been urging the university to address what they feel have been racist incidents ill-handled by the administration.
"I want to make sure that students know that myself, Jarell and our cabinet stand with the community. Not just our school — the whole community should take part in it ... to recognize it [the issue]," SGA President Cait Zona said.
Throughout the year, Mizzou students have raised concerns about racial slurs and what they felt were discriminatory incidents, as reported by USA Today. This month, Mizzou student Jonathan Butler protested with a hunger strike, and 30 black football players refused to participate in team practices. The events culminated in Mizzou President Tim Wolfe's resignation on Nov. 9.
"It's 2015. We've seen different events like the unfortunate happenings in Paris and you think those are things that are going to shake our world forever, and they are going to. … There's small things that people shouldn't be nervous about, like walking down the road and meeting a person of color," Zona said. "And we want to make sure that those things aren't continuing to happen. … It's 2015 — and yes, we've come a long way, but we still have greater strides to go over."
Zona said her cabinet is working to address students' concerns to ensure similar slights do not occur on the UCF campus.
"I think that it goes along the lines of listening," Zona said. "I think that we really need to put our ears to the wall and be listening to what every student has to say. If one student doesn't feel like there is a policy that they feel safe with, or one student feels like there is a problem here, we really do want to be in the know."
SGA Vice President Jarell Jones said he sympathized with the students of color at Mizzou — and being a black student himself, said he wondered how he would have felt on the majority white, 35,000-student campus.
“Here at UCF, we strive for diversity and inclusion, and that's something every university should strive for,” he said. “When students feel like they aren't being cared for and their voices aren't heard, then that's a problem … I was thinking, if I was a student at Mizzou, and if I was being affected by those things, it would be very upsetting.”
Jones emphasized the importance of implementing diversity initiatives, like the recent “Let Us Taco Bout it” event where students discussed concerns about diversity issues on campus.
“We're making sure that we're reaching out to all types of students — no matter who they are, how they got here or how many classes they're taking, they're still a UCF Knight,” Jones said. “Diversity goes beyond the physical aspects of a person.”
On Wednesday, UCF students donned black clothing during a sit-in demonstration in the Student Union, showing support for Mizzou students' concerns for racial equality, reading aloud excerpts from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and holding signs that read, ‘Say No to Racial Injustice.’
"Every student should feel safe … it goes to feeling safe in our own skin, and that's really important," Zona said.
Nada Hassanein is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @nhassanein_ or email her at NadaH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.