In a story that may say more about the hypersensitive state of race relations in post-Obama America than it does about racism, the University of Florida finds itself at the center of a controversy over a faculty member hurrying along students as they walk across stage to receive their diplomas.
Without question, the white male responsible for the aggressive behavior went too far in his presumed task of keeping graduates moving, physically grabbing students when they paused to celebrate, but his aggressiveness did not appear to be reserved for just black students, as he was “seen hurrying students of all ethnicities along as their names are called,” the Daily Mail reported.
But when the white faculty member grabbed black students, some were unable to see beyond skin color. A number of videos capturing these moments were posted on social media, with several examples seen below:
UF Twitter 🗣🗣
— Chris (@ChicoFreedom) May 5, 2018
And from another angle… pic.twitter.com/iR2ZirCR2Y
— hailey ? (@yeliah_) May 6, 2018
Another one…. pic.twitter.com/imB8mwbICI
— Jordy (@_jordanaenae) May 5, 2018
Almost fell when he pushed me pic.twitter.com/98meStYalY
— thugger ? (@mythuggin) May 5, 2018
The video clips prompted plenty of allegations and exaggerations, with the national media jumping on the story. While the man on stage appeared to be reacting to any student who paused to display joy, it became an issue of race because people made it an issue of race, whether the facts support that assertion or not.
However, as one social media user pointed out: “What is conspicuously absent is a description of white students being allowed to ‘celebrate’ on stage without getting pushed off of it.”
What is conspicuously absent is a description of white students being allowed to “celebrate” on stage without getting pushed off of it……. https://t.co/Wmu04Quqtl
— Spacebunny Day (@Spacebunnyday) May 7, 2018
As with any claim of racism, the University of Florida was quick to respond.
“The University is proud of the achievements of every single one of our graduates and regrets that any celebration of the day may have been diminished by those monitoring a graduation ceremony,” the school’s Twitter account posted.
The University is proud of the achievements of every single one of our graduates and regrets that any celebration of the day may have been diminished by those monitoring a graduation ceremony.
— FLORIDA (@UF) May 6, 2018
University President W. Kent Fuchs, who was in attendance, also tweeted out a statement on Sunday for the “inappropriately aggressive” behavior.
“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.”
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. (2/2)
— W. Kent Fuchs (@PresidentFuchs) May 6, 2018
But the reaction online was not too forgiving, with social media users pointing out that Fuch was there and did nothing to stop the behavior.
You saw what was going on and said nothing pic.twitter.com/yroAGNAUZa
— Wallace (@iWaleMazon) May 6, 2018
— SophiaL (@SophiaLamar1) May 6, 2018
Apologize with $$$. https://t.co/O4IznuK6kC
— I know them typa hugs (@nikecasanova) May 6, 2018
These students, especially those of color, work so damn hard for 4 years to get to this point, yet a white @UF employee not only once, but multiple times, denied their existence, by putting his hands on them and pushing them off stage. Unacceptable. https://t.co/aCYjToRJP4
— hing potter (he/him) (@hingdpotter) May 6, 2018
At first I thought this was a spoof, but it’s real and what in the Fuck was The University Of Florida thinking?!? To forcibly push black students excited about graduating off the stage is reprehensible. They paid their money and spent their time and you put hands on them! pic.twitter.com/YDZtyS5dEZ
— Sukuna’s Second Eyes (@myssematch) May 7, 2018
They earned their accomplishment, this was their day to celebrate, under no circumstance should this have happened.
University of Florida students were waving and cheering when they were manhandled by a graduation marshal. https://t.co/XMpYRq1rJZ
— Denise Shearin (@DeniseShearin) May 6, 2018
As is often the case, there was a concerted effort to identify who this man was and to ensure that he was punished — guilty or not.
It's ~great~ that the practice of manhandling black students is halted for future ceremonies- will there be any kind of accountability process for the individual who did so in the video? https://t.co/hH73as6qpe
— Fi S-T (@FStewartTaylor) May 6, 2018
y’all need to fire that dude and pray you don’t get sued for assault and battery. https://t.co/TE1KBa2eDW
— ⚓️🚢Imani Gandy 🚢⚓️ (@AngryBlackLady) May 7, 2018
There are two sides to any issue, and while no one condones the aggressive actions of the faculty member, some on social media think the grandstanding graduates had a responsibility to themselves and their classmates that was not lived up to.
Here’s a sampling of responses from Twitter that puts the onus on the students.
Behaving as dignified human-beings would prevent such – blame is falsely appointed in this case. Being idiots – then using racism – typical..
University of Florida students were waving and cheering when they were manhandled by a graduation marshal. https://t.co/hYmkjK7fC9
— Wool Chuckerly (@TaveresQuixote) May 7, 2018
When they are on stage taking away from other students behind them that waited and can’t get their names read or heard because the people in front are being obnoxious. There was zero thought of others by these kids #selfcentered
— HBC Mullen (@HBC_DanMullen) May 6, 2018
It’s a College graduation not a pub walk. Did those clowns earn or buy their degree #embarassing
— Terri0806 (@Terri0806) May 6, 2018
I was there, as a graduate of the University of Florida and the father of a graduate I think the grandstanding by students detracts from the overall experience. Apparently maturity doesn’t come with the degree. President Fuchs has nothing to apologize for. Grow up!
— Richard Campbell (@campshaw1) May 6, 2018
Wow. Well after seeing the video perhaps these educated young people should have been acting appropriately instead of wilding out…this has nothing to do with race and everything to do with demeanor.
— Stephanie Lee (@Steph_UF) May 7, 2018
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