A college student’s graduation ceremony is a time of celebration and reflection unless you happen to a be a black college student graduating from the University of Florida.
The school made headlines over the weekend after video shared on social media showed an usher aggressively dragging black students off the stage during a commencement ceremony. According to witnesses and students who were manhandled during the event, a white usher and unidentified school official quickly rushed black students who were “strolling” during their ceremonial walk.
“Strolling” is a tradition amongst black sororities and fraternities that includes a celebratory dance. It’s a way for students to pay tribute to their Greek organizations and to mark the hard work they put in to receive their diploma.
Video of the event shows the usher physically escorting several black students off-stage, some mere seconds after they began their walk. As rude and unnecessary as rushing the students off-stage was, the way the official chose to deprive these young men and women of their earned moment is even more concerning. Footage posted to social media shows the man grabbing, shoving, and in one case, wrapping his arms around a student, turning them, and then steering them off camera.
Graduates who gave interviews to ABC news and the local paper said the experience left them feeling “embarrassed” and “unsafe,” adding that the official treated black bodies in a very cavalier manner that was “degrading” and unacceptable.
The University of Florida’s president, W. Kent Fuchs, addressed the incident, apologizing to the students involved during his speech at a commencement ceremony the following day, admitting the official was “inappropriately aggressive” in his actions.
Fuchs also added that the tradition of strolling would be halted for future ceremonies.
“We will work to make sure all graduating students know we are proud of their achievements and celebrate with them their graduation,” Fuchs said
So, not only were black students victimized during a moment in their life when they should’ve been honored and congratulated but now all future black sorority and fraternity members will be essentially penalized for the actions of one white man. Obviously, Twitter had plenty to say about the situation, with alumni of the school and graduation attendees voicing their outrage over the incident and how it’s been handled by the University.
So my brother @olivertelusma tried to stroll on stage in celebration of getting his degree, and got almost THROWN off the stage by a Florida employee…imagine your school ruining your moment like this without prior warning https://t.co/qqjkUGA2Eg
— #JudgementDay (@Reggie_Jay) May 6, 2018
That man inappropriately touched those students and ruined a moment that they will never have back and y’all give us this fake apology?! K. https://t.co/dI4HHO1TUa
— Any Hughes (@hughesa03) May 6, 2018
We’re sure this won’t be the last we hear of this.