University of Florida president apologizes following viral videos

The school faced criticism after social media users shared clips that showed a faculty member forcibly ushering black students off the stage during a graduation ceremony.

Celebration quickly turned to criticism after videos of a University of Florida’s commencement ceremony spread online.

Time reported:

Multiple videos shared on Twitter show black students who danced onto the stage being quickly pushed or yanked away by the usher, who the school later said was a faculty member.

Tweets such as these made the rounds on Twitter and Facebook:

ABC News reported:

University of Florida graduate Christopher Garcia-Wilde said the usher appeared to only shove black students who wanted to celebrate on stage “by strolling, which is a cultural tradition in historically black fraternities and sororities.” Other students who took slightly more time on stage were rushed, but not in an aggressive manner, he said.

“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.

Backlash against the university was swift.

On Sunday, University of Florida’s president, W. Kent Fuchs, tweeted the following apology:

The University of Florida also tweeted a mea culpa under its account:

Fuchs said:

Yesterday, I also want you all to know, that we inappropriately, physically rushed a number of students off the stage in one of our commencements, and I want to personally apologize for us doing that on behalf of myself and also the University of Florida. I want our students to know—I want you all, our students, to know—that we have changed that practice and we also want every one of you to know that we celebrate you, your graduations and your accomplishments.

Many Twitter users responded to Fuchs’ tweeted apology with criticism for not mentioning the person who moved the students, nor if the university would discipline him.

Others lashed out at Fuchs for appearing to smile while watching the incidents take place:

However, part of the university’s reticence in naming the usher publicly might be due to the organization not knowing exactly what went wrong.

The Gainsville Sun reported:

UF spokeswoman Margot Winick said Sunday that university officials are looking into the incident, but officials feel the usher’s actions weren’t in line with the spirit of the commencement ceremony.

“We very much believe that this was a time for celebration,” she said. “So the university just regrets that the acts of those who were monitoring the lineup could dampen the spirits of the day. That’s not at all what commencement is about — it’s about celebration.”

Winick said the usher was a faculty member but that UF administrators are trying to obtain more information and review the situation before releasing the faculty member’s name.

How would you advise the University of Florida to regain trust and quell backlash, PR Daily readers?

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