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Friday, September 29, 2023

UF got a black eye over the weekend when black students were aggressively forced out of their strolls while walking during graduation. Strolls, in case you aren’t familiar, are traditional, celebratory dances that originated with historically black Greek organizations. They’re a lot more meaningful than the usual dabs that we often see.

Nearly everyone in the room caught on that there was something wrong with the moment. In a rare display of unity, the audience maintained solid boos for almost a solid ten seconds. The whole situation was impressively bad.

But hey, at least people in the room recognized that what happened was really messed up and that it shouldn’t have happened. The UF Twitter put out a vague, non-apology later that night. Then, UF President Kent Fuchs put out a more comprehensive two-part Twitter apology the next day, also reflected in his commencement address in subsequent ceremonies as well as through his office’s Facebook page.

Unfortunately, our experience within the room wasn’t reflected well online.

There’s no shortage of people calling the students hooligans or insisting that graduation ceremonies are supposed to respectful, classy, decorous or whatever.

Yeah… right. Nothing says “decorous” like parents honking smuggled air horns or holding screaming babies. Nothing says “respectful” like parents sassing one another and bickering over saved seats. Nothing says “classy” like graduates ripping off their gowns to reveal shorts and a T-shirt underneath as they walk. And yes, I’m talking about white people as well as minorities. Don’t let your prejudice pigeonhole you into thinking that only black graduates were strutting their stuff creatively this past weekend. People from all walks of life did their own things while they walked. The reason everyone’s angry is because the marshal’s harassment of black students was completely out of line compared to how he treated students of other ethnicities (or non-treatment in the case of some students from multiple non-black ethnicities that he inexplicably did not harass). And yes, I watched the whole darn livestream even though I was there in person just to make sure I’m writing this accurately.

But back to decorum; something tells me that the people making mindless comments don’t know what our ceremonies are like. At the beginning of his commencement speech, President Fuchs makes a reference to how the graduating class survived tide pods and the “stiff arm dance” (also known as flossing). In the first couple of ceremonies, he just says it and everyone laughs since he’s our Gator dad, he’s funny and we love him. After around four or five ceremonies, someone or several people from the group of “decorous” distinguished guests and faculty that sit on stage decided to actually start doing the dance after Fuchs makes the reference and the newly born tradition carried on until the last ceremony. We actually got less “classy” and less “decorous” over time.

Not that you shouldn’t rip off your gown, revealing your shorts an T-shirts while you walk, or that you shouldn’t dance a little, but the point is that we clearly have not chosen to conduct these ceremonies as people might have during the 12th century. If you think ceremonies should be dreadfully boring, prim and proper, you’re perfectly free to live your boring life and die a boring death, but that doesn’t mean that anyone else has to suffer the same boring fate, so stay in your boring lane.

Fuchs literally pokes fun at how stern academical dress codes used to be in addition to joining the students in the “decorous” tradition of decorating one’s mortarboard. If you’re going to scold someone for trying to stroll or dance while at a UF graduation ceremony, you’re clearly missing the forest for the trees.


Also, if you’re going to just call it ratchet dancing or whatever, I encourage you to learn more about strolling. I used to be relatively ignorant about strolling, as a person not affiliated with any multicultural Greek organizations. Initially, it was just a lot of yelling and weird moves and such to me. But over time, I got to know more people within the organizations and eventually started to understand the meaning behind the practices. I would highly recommend against disguising ignorance with a false sense of supremacy since, if you are, you’re just setting yourself up to fail.

Zachariah Chou is a 20-year-old UF political science sophomore and Murphree Area Senator.

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