JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A four-member board that heard Ken Parker's appeal of a suspension from the University of North Florida for making threatening and racist posts on campus media ruled he will be allowed to complete his classes this semester, but remains banned on campus.
The decision was made Monday by a panel of two students and two faculty and staff members.
"In the interest of the safety and welfare of both the student and the entire campus community and based on the totality of circumstances, I have reasonably forecast that this student's unsupervised presence on campus would pose a risk to his personal safety and cause a substantial disruption of, and material with, the university's learning environment as well as the rights and safety of other students, staff and faculty," UNF President John Delaney wrote Tuesday in a statement to the university community.
The statement comes one day after several dozen people protested Parker's behavior outside University of North Florida Alumni Center, where two UNF employees and two students heard Parker's appeal. Four supporters were also there to support Parker, who identifies himself as a white supremacist and a former member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Parker, 37, was escorted to and from the hearing by campus police, who prepared for possible rallies by those supporting and condemning him. News4Jax saw Parker giving a Nazi salute to the crowd as he was driven away.
Delaney said that while Parker will be allowed to complete his classes, faculty members will offer accommodations for him to complete the coursework off campus or online, as he will remain banned from campus while the process of reviewing possible conduct violations continues over the next 30 days.
"Over the past few weeks, I have heard from hundreds of concerned students, faculty, staff and parents. There's outrage and there's fear over racism and the threat of violence," Delaney wrote. "Please know that I take the safety of everyone in the campus community very seriously."
Several students told News4Jax on Tuesday that they were hoping to see Parker expelled from UNF, saying the threats were enough of a reason to remove him as a student altogether.
"To me, that sounds, kind of, counterintuitive and, like, a waste of everybody's time and energy," said Henley Bergloff, a freshman at UNF. "It sounds like they wanted to expel him, but then they were, like, scared to, for whatever reason, of the public's reaction. So they didn't do what they wanted."
Added UNF sophomore Tyree King, "Making this many people feel uncomfortable on the campus, especially in the way that he did, I feel like it's extremely disrespectful and completely goes against everything I would like to think that the university stands for."
But other students said the punishment is appropriate and shows respect for students' rights to free speech.
"I think it’s reasonable to preserve campus safety and, also, to not infringe upon someone’s right to go to a public educational institution, just because they have extreme political ideologies," UNF freshman Tom McCormick said.
After Monday's hearing, Parker told News4Jax he would not be speaking to the media because he does not trust the media to report on him fairly.
Parker is charged with several student conduct violations. He will report for another hearing to face those violations sometime within the next 30 days, and will be required to have a police escort at that time.