Amid controversy over reconstruction, the Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures and the Institute of Black Culture were demolished Saturday.
Christopher Wilde, a 21-year-old microbiology and cell science senior who served on Multicultural and Diversity Affairs’ renovation advisory committee before, said the demolition surprised him. He expected more notice for the exact day.
“That’s a really unpleasant image to see for people who have a strong connection to those buildings,” he said.
On the “No La IBCita” Facebook page, created to protest the unification of the two buildings, students expressed their surprise that the buildings were suddenly torn down.
Will Atkins, the executive director of MCDA, said they let the community know around mid-summer that the demolition would happen around this time.
Atkins said the community had been made aware that the buildings would be destroyed through social media posts, an email and announcements in live webinars.
“The community was very well-aware that they were going to be demolished,” he said. “In order for us to rebuild two new buildings on the same site, the buildings had to be demolished.”
The institutes had been the source of controversy and outrage when blueprints showed a connected building with distinct wings, instead of two separate buildings. In response, students created petitions and social media pages, like the “No La IBCita” Facebook page, advocating for separate buildings.
In mid-July, about 100 students marched from Turlington Plaza to the Reitz Union, where the advisory committee was holding a meeting, according to Alligator archives.
Later in July, MCDA announced the buildings would remain separate. An upcoming town hall meeting scheduled for Wednesday intends to bring together UF students and administrators. The event had initially been planned for Aug. 1 but was postponed when UF would not send administrators to the event.
Wilde said he felt MCDA was not transparent enough with its plans, and that he feels he was punished for speaking out as a member of the advisory committee. He said he has not been included in the new project team for the two buildings, which includes 14 people.
“I think everybody involved in opposing administration was intentionally removed from the process and distanced from the decision-making table,” Wilde said.
Students and faculty were chosen because they represented black and Latinx interests, are elected student leaders or bring insight as faculty, Atkins said. He said a detailed explanation of how members were chosen was posted on MCDA’s website.
Open input sessions for the reconstruction will be held throughout the Fall, Atkins said. He said the dates would be announced soon.
“We are just excited for the reconstruction of the two spaces and look forward to making sure students and various stakeholders are aware of our plans,” he said.
Wilde worries the new buildings will blend in with the rest of campus or feel too sterile, not like the homes they used to be.
“Students need to be more involved, and there need to be more students on that committee,” Wilde said. “I hope that there’s more transparency with the new project team.”