The University of Florida has been forced to apologize after a staff member unnecessarily manhandled several black students during their graduation commencement ceremony on Saturday.
A clip of the incident captures the bizarre behavior of the usher, who aggressively grabs the black students by the collar and arms before shoving them off the stage.
The usher’s actions were in response to the length of time it was taking for the targetted students to walk across the stage. But many have condemned this approach as it prevented the students from celebrating their graduation in their own cultural way.
Watch the video for yourself and see what you think of the usher’s brash behavior…
One student at the ceremony, Christopher Garcia-Wilde told The Gainesville Sun that he’d noticed black students were being thrown from the stage for taking too much time.
He continued to explain that the students were partaking in a years-long graduation tradition, which sees those from Black or Latino sororities and fraternities ‘stroll’ across the stage. The move is a cultural tradition which has existed for many years.
As a result of the rough handling of his fellow students, Christopher decided not to stroll, but instead, he just raised his fist because he was afraid of the repercussions.
Other video footage from the ceremony shows the crowd reacting to the usher’s unreasonable force, but the usher appears not to hear their shouts, either that or he simply didn’t care.
On Twitter, the University of Florida President Kent Fuchs issued an apology to the affected students, which read:
“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. I want our students to know that we’ve changed that practice, and we also want each of you to know that we celebrate you, your graduation, and your accomplishments. Congratulations, all.”
Whilst the footage only shows black students being mistreated, The Gainesville Sun reports that “most” of those targetted were black – implying that white students may also have been manhandled.
A university spokeswoman was unable to comment on whether the only victims of the incident were black or not, having not seen the footage of the incident.
Regardless, it is clear that unnecessary force was used by the usher, but thankfully the incident has raised awareness for the importance of accepting cultural traditions during graduation.