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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

As humans, we make mistakes. We have all said and done things we regret. We shouldn’t hide our mistakes and pretend they never happened. We should embrace them and show the world that we have learned and are ready to grow.
Similarly, UF should not hide the fact that it has made many appalling mistakes in the past. Half a century ago, the university denied Virgil Hawkins admission to its law school based solely on his skin color. Hawkins fought legal battles for nearly nine years to desegregate the law school at UF. Though he was never allowed to attend law school at UF, per his settlement agreement, the university agreed to desegregate its graduate and professional schools. As a result of his sacrifice, UF’s students of color enjoy being able to attend the university. Hawkins’ struggle is the prime reason many students can attend UF. Hawkins forged a path for aspiring minority students in Florida.
As a result of Hawkins’ sacrifice, UF admits students of all races. However, UF has a racial equity problem. Ever since I moved to the U.S. and Florida, I have always wanted to attend UF. I fell in love with the idea of being a Gator. But once I started attending UF, my love started to fade away.  My experience at UF has not been what I imagined it to be.
During my first semester at UF in the Summer of 2017, a female barista at Starbucks assumed that I played football for UF. At that time, I was startled by her comment. I couldn’t believe she assumed that the only way for a large black man to attend this university was through athletics. Moving forward to Fall of 2017, Richard Spencer came to campus, and I witnessed how much hate people have toward people of color. The graduation ceremony of 2018 is just another example of the university’s failings. It felt like every part of my identity, as a black Haitian American man, was under attack, to the point where I no longer felt welcome at UF.
We, as a community, must acknowledge that this great university has made mistakes in the past. However, it is impossible to fix any problem without acknowledgment. I believe we should honor and display Virgil Hawkins’ name on UF’s main campus, where everyone who steps foot onto it can know who he was and what he has done for students of color and students in general.As students of this institution, we should not hide this piece of our history.
We should embody it and show the world that we have passed that rudimentary level and we are working toward a future where everyone at UF can feel at home and proud to be a Gator. I believe together we can make this university shine brighter.
Mackintosh Joachim is a psychology and women’s studies sophomore.
generic opinion

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