FAU administrator joins discussion on racial injustice with public officials, community leaders

Florida State Senator Lori Berman hosted the discussion highlighting the “diverse panel of women community leaders” who took part in it.


Top Row: (L-R) Lori Berman, Lois Frankel, Shirley Johnson, Melissa McKinlay, Katrina Long-Robinson. Bottom Row: (L-R) Jessica Mates, Ruth Mageria, Charlotte Wright, Jasmin Lewis, Andrea Guzman Oliver, Ava L. Parker

Richard Pereira, Contributing Writer

Florida State Senator Lori Berman hosted a discussion centered around racial injustice called “As Women, As Leaders,” on June 5 via Zoom, featuring 11 community representatives, including Dr. Andrea Guzman Oliver, FAU’s Associate Vice President for Student Outreach and Diversity.


Oliver shared her perspective with the panel, noting that to fix the issue of racism, education and legislation need to be updated.


“False perceptions related to diversity, inclusion, and equity coupled with whitewashed curricula and textbooks ill-equips all students and sustains the marginalization of people and color,” Oliver said. “As educators and elected officials, I believe we have the responsibility to not merely provide access or voice to marginalized populations but to provide them with the support and resources required to attain equality and to be successful in society.”


With her title, Oliver claims the responsibility of ensuring that Florida Atlantic University remains mindful that a richly diverse student population requires programs, services, and resources.


“It is part of my role to ensure that we continuously reach out to traditionally marginalized populations in order to ensure they feel connected to our university and have the resources they need to be successful,” Oliver said in an email. “This also includes providing a voice for students who otherwise may not feel empowered to have one.”


The call featured 11 women, including Congresswoman Lois Frankel, Palm Beach State College President Ava Parker, Vice Mayor of Delray Beach Shirley Johnson, Vice Mayor of Westlake Katrina Long-Robinson, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, Palm Beach County Teacher Jasmin Lewis, COO of Manifest Church Charlotte Wright, Executive Director of CROS Ministries Ruth Mageria, and Temple Beth El’s Rabbi Jessica Mates. 


“We need to listen and truly understand about the pervasiveness of racism,” Berman told the panel. “With the community leaders on our panel, we can start on that road.”


Berman began by introducing every individual who then shared their thoughts surrounding George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, police brutality, and racism.


“Recent events have broken the hearts of Americans all across the country as it raised the issues of racism and injustice in this country for people of color,” Frankel said.


In the discussion, Johnson emphasized that to improve the lives of people of color, every system in America must change.


“Our justice system in this country has got to change. Our education system must change. Our economics must change,” Johnson said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but we must start somewhere.”


Oliver brought up the importance of having equity as a solution to the issue of racial inequality, especially in education.


“Equity recognizes that certain individuals have not been provided the same opportunities and therefore may require additional resources and support in order to have a fair or equal opportunity,” Oliver explained. “In addition, equity includes actively seeking out barriers that may impact their success and making appropriate institutional changes to remove identified barriers.”


According to Oliver, however, there are flaws in education regarding the perception of diversity, inclusion, and equity.


“Fixing racism requires educating individuals of our origins and developing laws and systems that recognize the diversity of America today, are inclusive––meaning they consider the diversity of our nation and are written by individuals who reflect the diversity of our nation, and are equitable –– meaning fair and impartial, with resources and support for those who have not had the same opportunities,” Oliver explained in an email.  


FAU promoted the discussion on Twitter, highlighting the “diverse panel of women community leaders” who took part in the discussion as it got over 4,800 views on Facebook. The full discussion can be viewed on Berman’s Facebook page.


Richard Pereira is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Richard042601.