During the summer, after graduation, Williams took a series of photos and posted them on Instagram to celebrate completion of the degree.
In one post, she is photographed in a perfectly coiffed afro in an orange FAMU crew neck, a pair of bell-bottom jeans, and a pair of white peep-toe heels. In the caption, she lists her accomplishments, saying she served as a graduate assistant for faculty, was awarded a fellowship and was graduating with a 3.8 GPA.
In another post, she shared an image of her standing in front of the school mascot rattler statue, appearing to be naked and with medusa snake locs cascading over her backside. The young woman said the photograph was metaphoric of her “shedding like a snake into my new chapter.”
The school didn’t view it in the same way and withheld her degree after she participated in commencement activities. The institution decided to not confer the degree until they investigated the appropriateness of the image.
Williams said, “Their words were there would be a trial to decide if I violated any student code of conduct. I was a little shocked because I didn’t feel like I violated any rules.”
The school said they never released a statement saying it would not confer the degree, according to an official statement from the university’s communications department.
“Florida A&M University is aware of a post circulating on social media of a student photographed in front of the Rattler statue on campus,” FAMU communications said. Dr. William Hudson Jr., the vice president of Student Affairs, followed up with, “The university is aware of the picture taken and is currently investigating the incident.”
David Kubiliun, one of the lawyers hired to represent Williams said, “To me it was a complete violation of her First Amendment right of expression” according to NBC Miami 5.
Kubiliun and his co-counsel Scott Egleston argued their client wasn’t actually in the nude but was photographed in a nude-colored bodysuit.
“When she took that picture there was no one around the campus. So, it’s not like she disrupted school functions, which is what the school initially said,” Kubiliun said.
He added that the school’s police department had confirmed “that she was not in any violation of any Florida Statute.”
Between July and November, Williams has documented her administrative hearing with the school’s Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution.
The trial date to determine if the school will give her the diploma was set for Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, at 10:30 a.m. According to a document the scholar posted on social media, the panel was to hear information concerning her allegedly demonstrating disruptive behavior and violating the law. Williams says since graduating from school, she has attempted to get internships with mental counseling facilities but has been unable too without showing her completed master degree.
“I wasn’t able to move forward with the process because I did not have the degree to present,” Williams said.