Members of an African American Student Union were left open-mouthed and outraged after a white, freshman was hired for a top job within the group.
Torey McCleskey, a first year student at University of North Florida, was handed the coveted assistant director role, after a unanimous decision from the institution’s Senate.
However AASU members argue that Mr McCleskey, an athletic training and sports medicine student, has never actually set foot in the AASU’s office.
‘We didn’t even know who he was. He has attended one event and he left early,’ a member told Newsforjax.com.
They also said the student, who is a ‘slam’ poet, has little experience. Around a dozen or so members took to campus grounds to protest the decision yesterday.
‘The decision-making, the selection process of his appointment was unlawful,’ Christa Merix, an executive cabinet member of AASU who was up for the job herself,’ told the website.
‘That is the main purpose why we are here.’
Miss Merix and and John Iyoyo, a mechanical engineering junior, were both candidates alongside Mr McCleskey, according to the university’s student newspaper.
AASU argue that both were much more qualified for the position.
Miss Merix, an advertising student, has been with the AASU for three years, has served on the cabinet and was chosen by the advisory board for the role.
The appointment decision was decided in a tense debate at the Senate on Valentine’s Day, The Spinnaker reported.
Current director of the AASU, Joanna Hillman said in the meeting that Student Body President Sitou Byll-Cataria’s choice to hire Mr McCleskey was racially driven and unlawful.
‘They (Mr Byll-Cataria and Student Body Vice President Giovannie Medina) are using Torey as a white poster-child for diversity to fulfil their personal agenda of a multicultural agency,’ she said.
But Mr Medina hit back saying: ‘I don’t see colour when I interview candidates. My principles aren’t based on that, how I was raised was not based on that,’ according to The Spinnaker.
Many members, including Ms Hillman said Mr McCleskey’s race was not the issue but the lack of experience was.
However supporters of the Mr McCleskey went on to argue that he was more than qualified for the job.
During the meeting, the student tried to make light of the situation. ‘Variety is the spice of life,’ he said, ‘. . . and I like my food spicy.’
But protesters may not see it this way. Yesterday they announced they weren’t going to stop until something was done about the appointment.
They said they want Mr McCleskey removed and the approval process overhauled so this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.
However Miss Merix reiterated the AASU sentiment by saying their decision to protest had nothing to do with race.
‘It has nothing to do with the assistant director who was appointed,’ she told Newsforjax.com. ‘It’s the decision making that went with it.’
Mr McCleskey didn’t seem to be taking it personally either when he walked right past the protest, saying that the students had a right to speak their minds.
The AASU was founded 20 years ago. Today it has 200 members and its focus is African-American enrichment.