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Presidents of USF and SPC weigh in on George Floyd’s death, protests

Steve Currall and Tonjua Williams say their schools can help point the way forward.
University of South Florida president Steve Currall, left, and St. Petersburg College president Tonjua Williams have released statements on the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the protests that have ensued.
University of South Florida president Steve Currall, left, and St. Petersburg College president Tonjua Williams have released statements on the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the protests that have ensued. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times 2019 / Times (2017) ]
Published Jun. 2, 2020

College presidents from both sides of Tampa Bay have issued statements on the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the protests that have wrenched the nation in recent days.

St. Petersburg College president Tonjua Williams and University of South Florida president Steve Currall expressed deep sadness over the events but said their institutions offered resources to help students, faculty and the public get through the crisis.

Williams, in statement released Tuesday, described SPC as a school made strong by its “rich tapestry of people of many races, ethnicities, religious affiliations, gender identities, sexual orientations, political beliefs and physical abilities.”

Her statement continued: “Our institution can provide a voice for disenfranchised and marginalized individuals by acting as a convener and supporting respectful discourse to effect change. The very premise SPC is built upon — providing equity and excellence in education for all — provides the foundation for us to listen to one another, learn from each other and teach others.”

In his statement, released Saturday, Currall pointed to USF’s Principles of Community, which calls on people at the university to “treat each other with respect and dignity, refrain from displays of inappropriate anger or intimidating conduct, shun epithets or abusive language, find effective means to disagree, and to persuade and to inform through dialogue.”

He also urged students, faculty and staff to seek assistance through the university’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the USF Counseling Center.

Currall urged people to support each other and “stand up to injustice whenever and wherever it occurs.”