FGCU Students Protest Senate Meeting Comments
'Black excellence' comments at a Florida Gulf Coast University Student Government meeting lead to a protest on campus this week.
Update 02-09-2021: The word excellence was left in the description, but after Tuesday’s demonstration, another senate meeting took place, where student government senator Nick Shepeard was issued four discipline points.
A request was also made to form an impeachment committee, which would investigate whether or not Shepeard violated the student government Constitution, or other student government rules.
The “Melanin Week” bill was passed with a 32-0 vote, without any further discussion on the language.
A demonstration on Tuesday was held in response to comments made during a Student Government meeting, where student senators were considering a funding request of $3900 for the Black Student Alliance for its “Melanin Week.”
According to the bill, Melanin Week aims to “illustrate the importance of unifying the Black community and recognizing Black excellence on campus.”
In that meeting, Senator Nick Shepeard recommended that the word “excellence” be dropped from the description.
According to the Black Student Alliance, the senator said he believed that the word “excellence” declares “superiority over other races.”
Those comments induced outrage on campus, which led to a socially distant and peaceful protest Tuesday afternoon. More than 200 people dressed in black attire to listen as speakers advocated for change before they all marched on school grounds.
Student Government Chief of Staff Nathan Campbell spoke on why he was there and what he thinks the community must do to improve.
“I was frustrated. And I still am. I’m still frustrated. I don’t understand how I can go into the office every morning, and then someone who works with me every day, can go into that senate meeting and say that I don’t matter. That people like me don’t matter. So, I ask myself, what do we do next? Well, the first step is to educate ourselves. Understand the Black culture. Black history. Understand Black excellence, and why it’s important. The next step is to empower those people and put them in power,” Campbell said.
Student senate member Gervais Baptiste spoke passionately about the demonstration as well.
“Because let’s be honest, if we didn’t like this school we wouldn’t be out here. And if we didn’t care about our communities, and didn’t care about the people that we walk these halls with, we wouldn’t be out here,” Baptiste said.
The bill to fund the Black Student Alliance's Melanin Week was approved at Tuesday’s Student Senate meeting, which followed the protest march.
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