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Thursday, February 02, 2023

We’re not going to wait until the end of this editorial to cut to the chase, so here it is: UF needs to do more than just condemn hate after the fact.

Following seven racially charged incidents on UF’s campus this semester, the Alligator has reported on all of the incidents — and the subsequent condemnations by UF’s administration and UF President Kent Fuchs. It has become almost routine.

Weimer Hall. Turlington Plaza. Anderson Hall. Beaty Towers East. Walker Hall. McCarty B. And now Walker Hall again.

Since the new year, every single month has brought along with it a new incident. April got its first last week.

For those who don’t know, a man was trespassed from campus Thursday after he confronted two members of the university’s African American studies program in their office and expressed support for a racist ideology while blockading the office’s door.

See the updated story here. 

Four days later, Fuchs released a statement calling for a campus with “no room for threats and fear tactics.”

While we’re glad UF is at least acknowledging these incidents, it feels like that’s all they are doing. And while we can understand the university trying to be politically correct in its response to this, it comes off as lackluster and contradictory.

Calls for diversity and inclusion mean little if these incidents are still happening and at an alarming rate. We can’t think of another university in Florida — even the country — that has been the scene of incident after incident, every month this year without fail.

What would have happened if the man who trapped the two UF faculty members in their office Thursday had a weapon? What if he had been there with violent intent? We hate speculating, but with a racially charged climate both across the nation and on our own university, we cannot turn a blind eye to what happened Thursday. Or what could have happened.

Our campus should be a haven for everyone, including faculty and staff. But when one of our own feels threatened, we must reevaluate what we are doing to fix it. Security measures have been taken to let the staff at Walker Hall feel more safe, but why is it more reactive than proactive?

We can’t allow the situation to escalate to the point where real people are in real danger; we cannot let UF become another headline.

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UF has taken steps toward addressing increased tension, with Fuchs holding a town hall meeting last month to address concerns from black students and UF colleges hiring inclusion officers.

But more needs to be done. UF must acknowledge the unique and troubling situation it finds itself in. It cannot risk to bury these incidents as isolated. There is a clear pattern in play here, and there is no easy solution.

We suggest Fuchs and other school officials, including members of Student Government, host additional town hall meetings to listen to students and faculty members from all backgrounds as a way to foster inclusion and build community. Faculty members and students should receive training on how to deal with these incidents if they continue happening, and it appears they will.

We also suggest replacing What is the Good Life?, a mandatory course for incoming students, with a course centered on diversity, inclusion and the history of minority experience in the U.S.

But suggestions are powerless unless they get into the right hands. We urge you to organize, collaborate and let your voices be heard. Email or call in your complaints and suggestions to the people who have the power to implement change.

People like Fuchs, incoming Student Body President Smith Myers — who will be sworn into office on Wednesday — and Dean of Students Jen Day Shaw are beholden to you.

Keep them accountable.

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