University of Florida apologizes after usher shoves black grads
The University of Florida has apologized after several black students were seen getting manhandled for celebrating on stage during a graduation ceremony this weekend.
School president W. Kent Fuchs lamented the “inappropriately aggressive” behavior toward the grads at the Saturday event, images of which circulated around social media.
“I personally apologize, and am reaching out to the students involved,” he said Sunday. “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.”
Students reportedly jumped and danced after getting their diplomas from the Gainesville school, which some said was a common rite of passage in some fraternities and sororities, only to be shoved by an usher moving them away.
One of those students was Oliver Telusma, who told the Gainesville Sun he was grabbed under the armpit as he began to 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,” he told the newspaper. “It was just really uncalled for, especially for anyone not martially trained to do that.”
The 21-year-old political science graduate — who has his eyes set on law school — argued the University of Florida has a past of racial bias.
“It’s a situation where time and time again the university has made black bodies feel unsafe,” he said to the Gainesville Sun.
His friend, Christopher Garcia-Wilde, was sitting in the audience when he noticed the aggressive behavior — adding it was toward predominately black students.
“Both of my friends wanted to celebrate by strolling, which is a cultural tradition in historically black fraternities and sororities,” he told the Gainesville Sun. “It’s a tradition to stroll at graduation if you choose to, and people have been doing this for years.”
Nafeesah Attah also tried to celebrate after receiving her diploma — only get get shoved away by the UF employee in front of her family.
"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 told ABC News. “So I was definitely disappointed they took that moment from me because I can only get my bachelors once.”
Garcia-Wilde, who got a bachelor’s degree in microbiology over the weekend, decided not to celebrate after seeing others get shoved.
“I was actually too afraid because I saw him shove other people,” said Garcia-Wilde, 22. “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.”
A University of Florida spokeswoman told the Gainesville Sun that the school was still gathering details on the incident.