UF Bans Man, 54, After He Confronts African American Studies Employees

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A man has been banned from the University of Florida campus after university officials say he walked into the African American Studies Program’s office and confronted employees there.

Last week, 54-year-old Thomas John Kelly “disrupt[ed] the office and the employees working there,” University of Florida President Kent Fuchs said in an emailed statement this morning to all faculty, staff and students.

Kelly is not a UF employee or student. His campus ban also includes UF Health Shands Hospital.

Sharon Austin, director of the program, said in an interview that Kelly came to the office about 10 a.m. Thursday, stood in the door and blocked her and her assistant from leaving.

“He kept rambling about different things and refused to leave,” she said.

Her assistant managed to leave the office and call the police, and the incident, from Kelly approaching the women to police arriving and then removing him from campus, took about 20 minutes.   

Officers also stopped by the building today, and Austin said she felt safer after talking with them. She said the office has since taken extra security measures, including installing a doorbell that individuals must now ring to enter and locking the doors.

Although shaken by the incident, Austin said those involved with the program will continue doing their work.

I’m not gonna be distracted … simply because of him and his ignorance,” she said.

In his statement, Fuchs said the university is “disturbed and saddened to learn of a recent incident … that has heightened fears on campus.”

It follows another incident in February at Walker Hall, which houses the African American Studies Program. In that one, someone knocked over a sign in front of the building for the program as well as the Center for Jewish Studies.

Fuchs denounced such incidents, saying “it is even more important than ever to work to bring our campus community together.”

“We are proud of the many diverse programs represented on our campus, including the UF Program in African American Studies,” Fuchs wrote. “The faculty, staff and students are making that program one of the nation’s best.”

Representatives from the University Police Department couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

About Melissa Gomez

Melissa is a reporter for WUFT News. She can be contacted by calling 239-207-1626 or emailing melissagomez004@gmail.com

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