University of Florida Apologizes for Racist Graduation Ceremony


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  • The president of the University of Florida has apologized for a graduation ceremony in which graduating students, predominantly black, were aggressively pushed offstage.

    Several of the students were performing choreographed dances popular in their fraternities and sororities — Alpha Phi Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta.

    The faculty member on stage is called a “platform marshall” and his job, according to the university, was to “monitor the flow” of graduates. And in case you think it’s selective editing or camera placement, it doesn’t look much better from the stands either, where the faculty member is audibly booed.

    One of the students, Nafeesah Attah, said she was hurt that her planned celebration was interrupted. The University’s president, W. Kent Fuchs, took to Twitter to apologize. He wrote: “During one of this weekend’s commencement ceremonies, we were inappropriately aggressive in rushing students across the stage. I personally apologize, and am reaching out to the students involved. The practice has been halted for all future ceremonies, and we will work to make sure all graduating students know we are proud of their achievements and celebrate with them their graduation.”

    Oliver Telusma, one of the more aggressively-handled students at the ceremony, said he received a voicemail from Mr. Fuchs, but has not yet called back. The unidentified faculty member on the video has been placed on paid administrative leave. President Fuchs also posted a video to YouTube further apologizing for the incident. Watch below —

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  • He says he’s asked the university’s vice president and student body president to form a task force looking at ways to improve the commencement ceremonies. However, we don’t know if they need a whole task force. How about just not shoving people off the stage? Seems like a quick fix.

    There’s a bit of a debate online about if the incident was racially motivated or if it was just a coincidence that the students most aggressively touched were students of color. The UF Black Student Union released a statement that says: “Although students of multiple identities experienced this aggression during a milestone accomplishment for themselves, we urge everyone to acknowledge the added hostile environment created for black students who rightly showed excitement.” And, the university itself admitted as much. They said: “These actions disproportionately affected students of color and are not in line with UF’s stated institutional values.”

    Apology or no, Oliver Telusma said the memory of what happened won’t fade for him or his family, and students are not forgetting the incident. Chris Garcia-Wilde, a student who walked amidst others who were aggressively-handled, tweeted:

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  • Just in the last few years, a noose was found in a classroom, a student had Black History Month decorations torn down, and a man rode a bike around campus with a swastika on his arm. So, President Fuchs’ message, though conciliatory and respectful, may not address the overall problem in a way students of color will appreciate.

    What do you guys think? Is the school doing enough to address the incident? Let us know in the comments.

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