Florida A&M stopped Terica Williams from getting her master's degree in the spring over a viral image that appeared to be her in the nude, but now they’re changing course.
What appeared to be nude photo taken at a Florida landmark delayed Williams from launching her career.
Williams thought the photo she took in the spring, not long after she participated in the graduation ceremony at Florida A&M in Tallahassee, brought out her creativity.
“I took one next to the snake statute that represents me shedding like a snake into my new chapter,” she said.
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The image was taken alongside the landmark snake synonymous with the FAMU nickname, the Rattlers.
Williams posted the image on her social media and it looked like she wasn’t wearing clothes.
"What was unique about that photo was that I appeared to be nude and I had snakes coming out of my head," Williams said.
Williams said shortly after the photo went viral, the university informed her that her master’s diploma would be held up, even though she had met all 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 fellow attorney Scott Egleston said Williams was not actually in the nude when she took the photo but wearing a nude-colored body suit.
"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 for months she was unable to gain internships with mental counseling facilities without her master’s degree.
"I wasn’t able to move forward with the process because I did not have the degree to present," she said.
"She was unjustly treated by the university by not giving her her diploma which she rightfully earned," Kubiliun said.
Williams appeared before a university board in September to make her case and just recently FAMU ruled in her favor, and now she’s waiting on the diploma to arrive so she can present it to potential counseling firms.
"I feel amazing, overjoyed," she said Friday.
NBC 6 contacted FAMU’s legal office and the public information department multiple times but never heard back from them about the decision to send Williams her master’s degree seven months later.