Terica Williams, the Florida A&M graduate whose master’s degree was held up by the university after she took what appeared to be a nude photo on campus, will now finally receive her certificate.
Williams stirred controversy in the spring after the aforementioned photo she took went viral. The photo in question was taken after she attended her alma mater’s graduation ceremony, NBC 6 reported. Williams said the photo manifested her creativity. But the university held up her degree in the wake of the controversy.
“I took one next to the snake statute that represents me shedding like a snake into my new chapter,” she explained. Williams took the photo beside FAMU’s popular snake statue. The conspicuous landmark pays homage to the university’s nickname – the Rattlers. But the photo, which Williams shared on social media, appeared like she was naked.
“What was unique about that photo was that I appeared to be nude and I had snakes coming out of my head,” she said. Williams said the university told her it was going to withhold her master’s diploma after the photo went viral, NBC 6 reported. And the university is said to have made that decision though Williams fulfilled all requirements to graduate.
“Their words were there would be a trial to decide if I violated any student code of conduct,” she said. “I was a little shocked because I didn’t feel like I violated any rules.”
Williams’ attorney, David Kubiliun, also said FAMU’s decision to hold up her diploma was “a complete violation of her First Amendment right of expression.” Kubiliun and colleague attorney Scott Egleston added that Williams was actually wearing a nude-colored body suit when she took the photo.
“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. “Secondly, that she violated a law which was confirmed by the school’s police department that she was not in any violation of any Florida Statute.”
Williams said that the university holding up her diploma prevented her from landing internships with facilities that specify in counseling. “I wasn’t able to move forward with the process because I did not have the degree to present,” she said.
Kubiliun added that Williams was “unjustly treated by the university by not giving her her diploma which she rightfully earned.” The university eventually decided to award Williams the degree after she appeared before a board to defend herself. That was in September. The decision was recently taken, and Williams is waiting for the university to send over her diploma so she can use it to apply for an internship.
“I feel amazing, overjoyed,” Williams said.