Black students yanked off stage during University of Florida graduation ceremony
Footage from Saturday's graduation ceremony at the University of Florida shows a lecturer aggressively yanking several minority students off the stage.
A faculty member of the University of Florida forcibly dragged numerous minority students off the stage during their graduation ceremony and it has resulted in the university being accused of racism. The controversial footage shows graduates walking across the podium to receive their certificates as their names are called.
However, a white male in regalia aggressively grabs some black students to take them off stage when they pause to do a celebratory dance in front of the audience, reported ABC News. On Sunday, the institution apologized after students complained about the behavior of the usher during the spring commencement ceremony that happened over the weekend.
As the video of the incident stirred a race debate online, University of Florida President Kent Fuchs acknowledged that the school had been “inappropriately aggressive” while leading students off the stage.
“During one of this weekend’s commencement ceremonies, we were inappropriately aggressive in rushing students across the stage,” Fuchs said in a tweet on Sunday. “I personally apologize, and am reaching out to the students involved.”
On Sunday afternoon, the University president repeated these lines during a speech at another commencement ceremony of the University.
In a conversation with ABC News, a student from the University who is a part of the 10,000 member spring 2018 graduating class, Nafeesa Attah, said that she was one of the victims of the manhandling. She added that her entire family had come down from London and South Florida for the ceremony and that it was hard for her younger sister to see her kicked out of the stage in the manner it happened.
"I kind of planned what I wanted to do on stage to celebrate my story, all of my hard work I'd done at the University of Florida," Attah said.
"I tried to do one of my stroll moves, but I was instantly like blocked by one of the officials on stage and they aggressively pushed me off the stage after that," she added. "So I was definitely disappointed they took that moment from me because I can only get my bachelors once."
Another student, Oliver Telusma, was also forcibly removed from the podium when he tried to do a little dance.
“I had just started, and he picked me up and turned me around, which I thought was kind of embarrassing and degrading to be handled in that manner,” the 21-year-old Telusma told The Gainesville Sun. Telusma said that he had to shove the usher in order to break free from his firm grip. The graduate is a member of the Beta Sigma chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Fuchs assured that the insensitive procedure of removing students off the stage would be prohibited from future ceremonies.
Christopher Garcia-Wilde, another UF graduate, said that the faculty member singled out black students who wanted to celebrate on stage “by strolling, which is a cultural tradition in historically black fraternities and sororities.” He said that while other students were also targeted, the usher handled black students in a rather aggressive manner.
“It’s a tradition to stroll at graduation if you choose to, and people have been doing this for years,” Garcia-Wilde, 22, told The Gainesville Sun on Sunday. “I was actually too afraid [to stroll] because I saw him shove other people. “But my two friends who graduated with me really wanted to do it, so they tried. They both were pushed and one of them got an entire bear hug,” he added.
Telusma added that he had no doubts the faculty member's behavior was racist. “It’s a situation where time and time again the university has made black bodies feel unsafe,” Telusma told The Gainesville Sun.
1985 graduate Todd Simmons raised his concern over the 'practices' Fuchs was referring to. He responded in a tweet by saying:
"I appreciate your candor. I [would] also respectfully suggest an inquiry is in order regarding how such a “practice” came to be approved & carried out in the 1st place, w/ what appear to be clear racial differences, in front of thousands. The vids are disturbing."