A student’s biggest dream is to walk across the stage during their school’s commencement ceremony; getting rushed off the stage is not.
That was the case for a number of African-American students at the University of Florida’s ceremony on Saturday.
As students were called up to receive their diplomas, some decided to perform a quick celebratory dance. But, a faculty member didn’t find the performances to his liking and forcibly rushed the graduates off the stage.
Several people took to social media to post videos of the incidents, saying the man’s actions were unfair and unnecessary.
“This is absolutely disgusting, these students have paid more (than) $40,000 in tuition and if they want to dance for 4 secs then it’s their prerogative,” sair Mackintosh Joachin, a student at the university, on Facebook.
The videos quickly sparked outrage, with some who watched them accusing the university of racism.
UF tweeted later Saturday: “The University is proud of the achievements of every single one of our graduates and regrets that any celebration of the day may have been diminished by those monitoring a graduation ceremony.”
On Sunday morning, school President Kent Fuchs, who was at the ceremony, tweeted an apology.
“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,” Fuchs said. “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.”
The faculty member who served as a marshal at the commencement ceremony has been placed on paid administrative leave pending a review of the appropriate administrative steps, said Margot Winick, University of Florida’s director of communications. The university will not confirm his identity or have further comment while the matter is under review, she said.
Nafeesah Attah, one of the students who was ushered off the stage, said her dance was a symbolic gesture and a tribute to her sorority.
“He really aggressively pushed me, and put his hands on me and really took away that moment of me celebrating my graduation,” Attah told HLN. “It was directly targeted and contingent upon your race. There were other students prior to us going up there who were white who did back-flips and took selfies, who did a spin on stage and they were not handled in the same regard.”
According to social media, at least one white student also was pushed. Twitter user Hailey tweeted a video of a student being hurried toward her diploma.
Other students who were in attendance are asking the university to take action toward the usher.
“Somebody please find out this employee’s name!! Every time a Black student took more than TWO seconds, he aggressively pushed them,” tweeted one.