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AHF Presents The Know Your Status Tour - Tallahassee

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A young woman who took a photo after graduating from Florida A&M University (FAMU) in Tallahassee will finally be conferred her master’s degree. Terica Williams graduated this spring, but when her creative graduation photos went viral—the university withheld her degree. 

The photo which showed Terica Williams appearing to be nude next to FAMU’s statue of its mascot, a rattlesnake, was supposed to represent her shedding her skin and moving into a new phase of her life. “What was unique about that photo was that I appeared to be nude and I had snakes coming out of my head,” Williams told NBC 6

However, shortly after the photo attracted extensive attention online—the university held her MS in Counselor Education diploma although she had completed the requirements. 

“Their words were there would be a trial to decide if I violated any student code of conduct,” Williams said. “I was a little shocked because I didn’t feel like I violated any rules.”

“To me it was a complete violation of her First Amendment right of expression,” said attorney David Kubiliun. Kubiliun and another attorney, Scott Egleston, said Williams was not actually in the nude when she took the photo but wearing 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. “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.”

FAMU will now confer Williams’ degree after a lengthy review process during which she also appeared before a review board and the university ruled in her favor. She says that during the seven months that her degree was held up she had difficulty getting internships in her field. 

Now that it’s all over, she told the local news outlet, “I feel amazing, overjoyed.”