The University of Florida has apologized to black students who were manhandled off the stage by an aggressive usher at a commencement ceremony Saturday. Students say they were grabbed and shoved down the stage when they performed quick celebratory dances, with the usher apparently singling out African-American students, CNN reports. It has long been a tradition for members of black fraternities and sororities to "stroll" across the stage during graduation ceremonies, performing a five- to 10-second version of their organization's dance, the Miami Herald notes. Students tell the Gainesville Sun that the way they were treated was embarrassing and degrading.
"This little snapshot of what happened at graduation is a little bit of insight into how the university treats minority students, especially black students," one student tells the Herald. University president Kent Fuchs tweeted an apology early Sunday and promised to reach out to the 30 or so affected students. "During one of this weekend's commencement ceremonies, we were inappropriately aggressive in rushing students across the stage," he said, adding that the "practice has been halted for all future ceremonies." Some students, however, say the usher's actions were assault. They want the man, believed to be a faculty member, to be identified and fired, and they say Fuchs should have spoken up during the ceremony.