Florida Memorial University will no longer have in-person classes.
South Florida’s only historically Black university elected to temporarily go virtual earlier this week, first reported by The Miami Times and later confirmed to the Miami Herald by a source. It’s unclear when in-person classes will resume.
The move comes less than a week after Florida Memorial’s athletic director Ernest T. Jones resigned following allegations of sexual harassment. Chevonne Mansfield, who previously served as deputy athletic director, will step into Jones’ vacated role in an interim capacity, the university officially announced Monday.
Although it’s unclear why Florida Memorial chose to suspend in-person classes, the university has dealt with an outbreak of COVID-19 since September. The school’s new COVID-19 reporting dashboard said there were 61 cases in September.
By early October, the virus had spread to the athletic department following a positive test from an employee who recently traveled on the bus with the football team. Days later, at least 30 football players tested positive, the Herald previously reported.
The ensuing positive tests, coupled with the decreasing faith among students in Florida Memorial’s handling of the outbreak, led the university to cancel all remaining fall sports. As of Monday, the school has had 36 COVID-19 cases in October, according to the reporting dashboard.
Jones’ resignation, which university president Dr. Jaffus Hardrick said in a statement was “to pursue other career opportunities,” came on the heels of a Change.com petition that sought his dismissal from the university.
“AD Jones has been able to carry on and make a mockery out of Florida Memorial by being a Sexual Predator, Bullying his employees, Threatening student athletes scholarships, having sex with Student Athletes,” the description read.
More than 100 people signed the petition. A second petition, which had garnered 777 signatures, also advocated for Jones’ removal but was later deleted, The Miami Times reported.
The university did not comment on these allegations.
Both students and parents levied harsh criticisms against Jones over what some deemed an inability “to provide a safe environment.” One parent had previously told the Herald that her daughter had been kicked off a team because of Twitter posts that criticized the athletic department. Jones, however, had no knowledge of the removal.
Prior to his resignation, Jones had assumed the position of interim head coach football coach after he suspended Timothy “Ice” Harris as well as volleyball coach Marrita Crockett-Moulton and cheerleading coach Kalyn Jones. Another — men’s soccer coach Connor Campbell — had recently resigned because of the administration’s poor treatment of players and coaches, according to the Herald’s previous reports.
The 2020-21 school year was supposed to be a rather significant for Florida Memorial. For the first time since 1958, the Lions had a football team that was set to compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Now, following a COVID outbreak and the subsequent shake-up in the athletic department, Mansfield will be left to cobble together what’s left.
Mansfield, who will be the first woman AD in school history, appears ready for the challenge. In her introductory press conference on Monday, she put a positive spin on the road ahead:
“Sometimes things don’t go as planned but champions adjust.”