A group of more than 50 students, faculty members and community activists gathered at the University of North Florida Monday morning to protest suspended student Ken Parker’s actions.
Parker, who has a history as a white supremacist, was suspended last week for a social media message showing him holding a gun and threatening members of the Students for a Democratic Society, a group associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.
His student disciplinary hearing was at 9 a.m. at Alumni Hall.
UNF Biology Professor John Hatley said he came to the protest to support the school. “ When somebody else, another group, comes out and speaks out against it to just make sure that we try to get more people on the side of support of diversity and inclusion and show there’s strength on that side too," Hatley said.
Four people were outside Alumni Hall to support Parker. Burt Colucci with the National Socialist Movement drove up from Central Florida.
“We are absolutely not going to be bullied by the communists that stand over there with the ANTIFA flag and other people who think that the laws in this country only apply to them and the first amendment only applies to things they like or are being said. It doesn’t work like that,” Colucci said.
UNF officials said Parker was expected to learn later Monday whether he would remain suspended. Because of privacy laws, it will be up to Parker whether to make the decision public.
Monday’s hearing lasted a little more than an hour. Parker was escorted to and from the University Police Department to Alumni Hall where the hearing was held.
"The University Police Department did a terrific job in coordinating with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in a display of police presence, including police patrols in the core of campus. I would like to thank both departments for their professionalism," said UNF President John Delaney.
In terms of Parker’s suspension, it involves a two-step process, according to an emailed statement Friday from Delaney.
Regardless of whether the suspension is upheld, the next step is a formal charge of misconduct. Then there's another panel hearing to determine the merits of the charge and possible discipline.
UNF employees also released a statement of unity Monday:
We, the employees of the University of North Florida, stand with UNF President John Delaney in opposition to racism, bigotry, and violence. We affirm our commitment to the values and ideas expressed in the UNF Statement of Unity, which was passed as a resolution of the UNF Faculty Association on March 2, 2017.
UNF Statement of Unity
UNF stands in unity and solidarity with all members of our community, regardless of race, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, disability, or country of origin.
We are proud of the diversity in our students, faculty and staff. We strongly condemn acts of hate and bigotry as antithetical to the university’s core values of mutual respect and civility. Actions and words that seek to deny human beings full membership in the broader moral community on the basis of arbitrary characteristics are intolerable.
We stand opposed to violence in language or in action, and we see these as a threat to the mission of UNF as a public university that is committed to intellectual and cultural growth and civic awareness. We pledge to stand with and for those who are the most vulnerable members of our community and to take actions that help our students and fellow employees feel safe and know that they are safe.
We affirm UNF’s unreserved commitment to student success within a diverse, supportive campus culture. We seek to embody the ideals of a free and democratic society, and we fully support and value each member of our community.
John Delaney, President, University of North Florida
Sheryll Brown , President, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, UNF Chapter
Sunshine Isbell, President, UNF University Support Personnel Association
Rebecca Marcon, President, United Faculty of Florida, UNF Chapter
Nancy Miller, President, UNF Administrative & Professional Association
Radha Pyati, President, UNF Faculty Association