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June 15, 2020 — mjacobs@ufl.edu

Graham Center Condemns Racist Comments

Last Friday, we were alerted to racist and other disparaging remarks made by a student in one of our upcoming fall 2020 internship programs.

Let me state unequivocally that the Bob Graham Center for Public Service and its staff strongly condemn discriminatory language and actions in any form. We believe that Black Lives Matter, and we champion non-violent civic engagement pursuing meaningful and much-needed change on this issue.

The Graham Center is committed to building an inclusive community where any student interested in developing the principles and skills necessary to pursue ethical and responsible civic engagement and public service should feel welcome and safe.

University policy and federal law prohibit our discussing the specific circumstances of any student. We can say that in all of our internship programs, while it is our partner employers’ ultimate decision to offer or rescind employment, Graham Center interns are held to these standards of ethical inclusivity.

More broadly, the anguish over the barbarous killing of George Floyd has prompted an overdue reckoning for the righting of wrongs and the redressing of grievances that have occurred not only recently, but over decades and centuries. Yet how do we, as a society, right the wrongs of so many lives unjustly taken, or redress the grievances of so many opportunities denied and insults delivered? Finding answers to these questions requires each of us to understand and come to terms with our history as a country if we are to achieve some measure of reconciliation.

The Graham Center stands ready to serve and help lead, in the most positive and constructive role we can, in pursuing a just way forward. We invite our students and community to join us on this path.

Shortly after the killing of Mr. Floyd, we reached out to our campus partners that helped bring Dr. Ibram X. Kendi to UF last fall to discuss How To Be An Antiracist. We similarly invite you to help us develop programs and projects at the Center that will build on that successful event and tackle the twin imperatives of racial equality and social justice.

Over the last year, we have also worked to increase access to many of our academic and experiential learning opportunities by removing barriers that disproportionately impact minorities and first-generation students. We are likewise committed to the idea that financial circumstances should not determine whether or not a student can pursue our opportunities, and as a consequence we are re-imagining how we fund our initiatives.

Please join us as we press forward on these and other actions. Reach out to me directly with comments and suggestions at mjacobs@ufl.edu or through our social media channels.

Sincerely,

Dr. Matt Jacobs, Director