FSU president John Thrasher says ‘we have a long way to go’ on racial equality

Florida State University. Credit: Diane Rado

In his last year as president of Florida State University,  John Thrasher reminisced about his school’s achievements, including the establishment of a task force to address racial disparities on campus in response to nationwide injustices against Blacks.

His comments came during his last state of the university address earlier this week.

Thrasher established the “Task Force on Anti-Racism, Equity & Inclusion” in July following the killing of George Floyd in May by Minneapolis police. The killing sparked outrage in the nation, leading to protests across the country.

According to FSU’s website, the 30-member task force is responsible for implementing mandatory trainings on diversity and inclusion “for all campus employees and students,” while promoting recruitment and retention of students, faculty and staff from underserved populations.

Florida State University President John Thrasher in November 2014, following shootings on campus. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images.)

The task force is also tasked with producing bimonthly reports “on actionable issues” and will produce a final report at the end of the academic year, which will be reviewed by Thrasher.

“We know we have a long way to go to achieve true racial equality and justice — as a nation, as a community, as a campus,” Thrasher said, before a small crowd on Wednesday in Tallahassee.

“We must continue to listen, learn and evolve, and take action.”

As to other achievements, Thrasher said that “when I became president in 2014, we had some pretty audacious goals,” he said.

“We wanted to be recognized as one of the top 25 public universities. We wanted to raise a billion dollars, expand our research enterprise, and invest in our faculty and student success, just to name a few. I never had any doubt we would achieve them, but I never could have anticipated all of the ups and downs along the way.”

(U.S. News & World Report college rankings show that Florida State University ranks 19th in the category of top public schools, and 58th in the rankings for national universities that have “a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and doctoral programs. These colleges also are committed to producing groundbreaking research.”)

Thrasher also acknowledged challenges the university faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, from abruptly shifting to remote learning to implementing safety measures to reopen its campus in the fall.

“Our students, our faculty, our staff, every single one of us, has had to make sacrifices one way or another to safeguard the health of others. And every single one of us has had to find new ways of doing things in order to ensure the success of this university,” he said.

And the president recognized the university faculty’s ability to “quickly transition” in March to remote learning by converting “10,000 classes to remote delivery.”

“I certainly would never have imagined that we would be finishing my term amid a global pandemic. But this pandemic has reinforced many of the things I already knew about the people of this university — that we are strong, we are tenacious, and we are resilient,” he said.

A tribute video was unveiled at the event, showcasing Thrasher’s achievements during his six-year tenure as the university’s 15th president.