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FSU commits to new initiatives for racial equality, but some students remain skeptical

Published: Jul. 6, 2020 at 10:52 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 7, 2020 at 8:52 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Florida State University isn’t immune to effects from a summer of unrest, activism, and reflection.

Petitions, letters of demand, and social media campaigns are amplifying calls to change a number of campus staples. On Monday, FSU President Thrasher told his Seminole community that he hears those calls, releasing a multi-faceted plan that he says will lead to tangible change.

But some student leaders have their doubts.

Jaze Shaw-Young, the president for FSU’s NAACP chapter, described the announcement as “a lot of foot-dragging.”

Shaw-Young said she has met with the President’s team several times to talk about diversity and inclusion on campus. But she says task forces aren’t enough.

“I think that task forces are just meant to pacify students until they graduate, and the next students who complain about it will get another task force.”

She’s referring, in part, to the ongoing debate over the statue of Francis Eppes, which sits outside Eppes Hall on campus.

In 2018, a presidential task force recommended it be “removed and curated in a historically accurate manner.” The text didn’t specify the statue had to remain on campus, but that’s what President Thrasher ultimately decided to do; moving it in 2019 to its current location.

He also declined to follow the recommendation calling for the renaming of Eppes Hall.

Shaw-Young said having the statue on campus remains “immensely hurtful” for her.

As a part of Monday’s announcement, Thrasher promised to “review” those 2018 recommendations once again. In that statement Thrasher writes, in part:

Reverend R.B. Holmes with Bethel Missionary Baptist Church has recently called for the Eppes statue to be removed. He said he was pleased with the school’s latest steps.

“I think the university is moving in the right direction, they really want to have a positive conversation around racial healing,” he said. “Listening to the students is a first step.”

But for the students who want the statue removed immediately, the news came as a disappointment.

“I really want to see change on our campus,” Shaw-Young said.

Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Amy Hecht, released a statement of her own Monday. Here’s a part of that letter:

Eppes still has descendants living in the Tallahassee area who have publicly defended the statue in recent years.

WCTV reached out to them last week when this latest call for removal surfaced. WCTV reached out to several family members again Monday. No one has responded to a request for comment.

Copyright 2020 WCTV. All rights reserved.

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