Black and Latino Florida Students Protest After Refusing to Share Housing Space

Bryan Michalek | August 31, 2017
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Black and Latino students at the University of Florida are protesting a plan to build a new building to house both of their student organizations, because it would allegedly "erase and marginalize their black and brown bodies" by forcing them to occupy a shared -- though enormous -- space, according to the College Fix.

Two old campus houses were razed in order to build a new U-shaped building that would house two organizations; the Institute of Black Culture and the Institute of Hispanic-Latino Culture. The initial plan was to split the building into two wings that would only be connected by a walkway and an elevator, a project expected to cost the school upwards of $6.3 million.

Also included in the plan was a joint assembly room that would allow for co-hosted activities as well as events for either organization to hold on their own. It should also be mentioned that other student groups would have an option to use the assembly space, as well. 

But soon after the plans were announced, protests erupted, spawning a petition, several community gatherings, and a march held on the University of Florida campus by students who now claim being asked to share a space with another ethnic student group somehow diminishes their own group's "mark on campus."

College Fix obtained a statement from UF spokeswoman Margot Winick, who said, "Some students felt strongly that the buildings remain absolutely independent, and so the Core Committee, who was charged with making a recommendation to Multicultural and Diversity Affairs, pushed for two completely separate structures, with no shared assembly space.”

Also obtained was a piece in the university's student newspaper from Khyra Keeley, a member of the Institute of Black Culture. In the piece, Keeley stated, "Combining the IBC and the Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures, or La Casita, is not only working to erase the histories of the black and Latinx communities at UF, but also to further disregard the needs and concerns of students of color within a predominantly white institution.”

Another student contacted College Fix claimed that the building design, "erases our own mark on this campus and we get absorbed into ‘the Gator Nation’ without ever feeling a sense of home.”

The student, Daniel Clayton, who is a member of the Hispanic-Latino organization also said, “My main complaint to the University administration that have chosen to take the antagonistic side in this struggle is that they don’t feel as if students really matter. Our voices are reduced to ‘complaints’ and we are not taken seriously at all."

"It is not appropriate to dismiss student concerns as being ludicrous,” he added.

As it stands the university will now be rebuilding separate quarters for the two groups after continued pressure. The groups stated that the new building project was a "small victory" and released a statement saying the next step would be "ensuring that these separate institutes are visibly distinct from the rest of campus."

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