Recent graduates of the University of Florida have complained they felt humiliated and angered by the actions of an usher who rushed and even pushed some students at a graduation ceremony on Saturday. The president of the university has apologized for the “inappropriately aggressive” handling of the graduates.
In videos from the ceremony, the usher can be seen grabbing students by their shoulders and torsos and forcefully pushing them toward the stage exit.
Most of the students who were pushed were black, according to the Gainesville Sun, and some students complained that black students were being rushed more aggressively than white students. One graduate, Christopher Garcia-Wilde, told the Sun that two of his friends were pushed. “Both of my friends wanted to celebrate by strolling, which is a cultural tradition in historically black fraternities and sororities,” he told the Sun. “It’s a tradition to stroll at graduation if you choose to, and people have been doing this for years.”
Another graduate, Nafeesah Attah, told ABC News that she “tried to do one of my stroll moves” in celebration but was blocked and pushed. “So I was definitely disappointed they took that moment from me because I can only get my bachelors once,” she said.
President W. Kent Fuchs said in his tweet Sunday that the practice would not be repeated in any future graduation ceremonies and that “we will work to make sure all graduating students know we are proud of their achievements and celebrate with them their graduation.”