VIDEO: University of Florida usher accused of targeting black students celebrating graduation; school apologizes for ‘inappropriately aggressive’ behavior

The president of the University of Florida has apologized after video surfaced of a school administrator forcibly dragging black students off the stage during the school’s graduation ceremony this weekend.

ABC News obtained video showing a male usher manhandling black students who paused to briefly celebrate as they received their degrees during Saturday’s commencement ceremony at the O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

The video shows the usher using both arms to grab students and drag them off the stage after they lingered only briefly to celebrate their achievement with dances or gestures. The identified faculty member, who is white, appeared only to target black students, some who posted additional video of the aggressive manhandling to social media.

After videos of the students being dragged off the stage were widely circulated over the weekend, University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs apologized on Twitter for the “aggressive” behavior. He also apologized in person at another commencement ceremony.

Fuchs’ statements on Twitter do not address the apparent racial component of the incident, although graduating students said that the usher only targeted black students.

Christopher Garcia-Wilde, 22, told the Gainesville Sun that while he noticed many students being rushed off the stage, only black students celebrating were subject to physical aggression.

“Both of my friends wanted to celebrate by strolling, which is a cultural tradition in historically black fraternities and sororities,” he said. ”…. It’s a tradition to stroll at graduation if you choose to, and people have been doing this for years.”

Garcia-Wilde told the news outlet that he decided not to stroll after witnessing what happened to his friends.

“I was actually too afraid because I saw him shove other people,” he said. “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.”

Oliver Telusma, a 21, described his experience to the Gainesville Sun.

“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 said.

University of Florida spokespersonMargot Winick also apologized in a statement to the newspaper.

“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 told the newspaper that school officials are working to obtain more information about the incident and verify that only blacks students were targeting before releasing the usher’s name.

“I don’t know the facts,” she said. “I haven’t reviewed the tapes to see quite if that’s accurate.”

 

[Feature image: ABC News video screenshot]