#MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke’s April 19 visit to Florida A&M University (FAMU) ended abruptly after a university employee interrupted her and prevented her from speaking about a program that had not been reviewed by the university.
The activist, who advocates for young women and victims of sexual violence, was visiting the historically Black university as part of her #MeToo HBCU (historically Black colleges and universities) tour. Burke was joined by scholar Yaba Blay and the two spoke about the #MeToo Movement and the HBCU tour, according to student newspaper The Famuan.
“It isn’t a witch hunt, it isn’t an agenda war,” Burke said. “It’s a global movement, it’s about healing in action, supporting survivors and doing the work to end sexual violence.”
Burke began the movement in 2006 to raise awareness about sexual assault. The movement became popular in 2017 after social media users used the #MeToo hashtag to share their stories of sexual assault and harassment.
According to The Famuan, towards the end of a panel discussion with Blay and former NFL player Wade Davis, Burke pulled out a poster-sized agreement discussing a program she hoped to implement at FAMU. At that point, an employee with FAMU’s Office of Student Activities reportedly stood up and interrupted Burke.
The employee claimed Burke was not allowed to publicly discuss the contract because it had not been reviewed by the university. The interruption led to “a debate across the ballroom,” the student newspaper reported.
Burke’s proposal would develop a “Me Too” task force on college campuses and would issue a $10,000 grant to universities to provide resources for the anti-sexual violence task force.
“It’s something we’re doing because we love Black people, we love Black institutions and we wanna protect Black children,” Burke said, according to The Famuan.
She later said that she and her team felt antagonized by the FAMU administration due to its lack of communication regarding the task force. “And I don’t know what they’re hiding,” Burke said.
Burke declined to comment about the incident or her #MeToo HBCU tour. FAMU was her last stop on tour, during which she spoke about solutions to end sexual harassment and assault on college campuses.
In a statement to the Tallahassee Democrat, FAMU spokesperson Andrew Skerritt said Burke and her team did not give the university enough time to vet her proposal before the panel discussion. “They were asking us to sign an agreement which we had not vetted,” Skerritt said. “But the university is committed to the safety of our students.”
FAMU did not immediately respond to The North Star’s inquiries about the incident and concerns from students about sexual violence on campus.
On Wednesday, April 24, FAMU released a statement in response to the event and acknowledged that panelist had raised concerns about the university’s response to sexual violence on campus. The university said that it takes issues of sexual violence and sexual harassment on campus “very seriously.”
According to FAMU’s statement, the university has added six positions to address the issue, including two psychologists, a victim’s advocate, a case manager, a Title IX coordinator, and a Title IX investigator.
“The university does not condone or tolerate this type of conduct,” William E. Hudson Jr., vice president of student affairs, said in the statement. “We are committed to creating and maintaining a healthy and safe campus environment in which our students’ ability to learn, excel, and reach their full potential is not limited by the threat or occurrence of sexual violence and sexual harassment.”
FAMU said that it was reviewing Burke’s proposal for HBCUs to commit to the fight against sexual violence on campus.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.