Saving the Institute of Black Culture and La Casita
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In the Fall of 1971, the Institute of Black Culture (IBC) was established at the University of Florida in response to more than 100 student withdrawals from the University, by African American students and their supporters on campus. What led them to withdraw? The University administration failed to meet a list of student demands that were submitted to them from the Black Student Union in April of 1971. The list called for several programs and initiatives to improve the campus climate for Black students. A Black Cultural Center was one of these demands.
The Black Student Union (BSU) leaders argued that many black students were “excluded from meaningful social and cultural endeavors on this campus” and needed supportive resources.
46 years later, African American students are still under attack at the University of Florida, expressing the same concerns that BSU did in 1971, the only difference is that now, the Institute of Black Culture has been taken away from us.
In the span of 2 months, multiple occurrences of racism on campus took place with no repercussions or reconciliation for minority students. Below are a few:
1. Racist and xenophobic slurs were written on whiteboards in Anderson Hall, a classroom building. (“Make America Great Again! No Negroes, No Mexicans, No Muslims,” “Fuck Nigger Month” were some of the phrases written in all caps.”)
2. The Walker Hall sign was found uprooted outside of the building. Walker Hall houses the African American Studies program and the Center for Jewish Studies.
3. A UF student’s Black History Month decorations were ripped off her Beaty Towers dorm room door.
These events, along with others, have made being an African American Student at the University of Florida, uncomfortable, challenging, and frightening. Adding insult to injury, we as students, have not had access to the IBC, our safe haven, all semester and there are plans to combine it with the neighboring house, the Institute of Hispanic and Latino Cultures a.k.a “La Casita”, which would essentially destroy the historical meaning and significance of both institutions.
On Monday, March 20th, Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Dave Parrott, stated during a Town Hall meeting that “the IBC would still be the IBC and La Casita would still be La Casita” when referring to these two houses and addressing the rumors of them becoming one. His statements gave the impression that the rumors weren’t true and that the two buildings would continue to stand independent of each other. After the Town Hall meeting, myself and other African American students approached Dr. Mary Kay Schneider Carodine, the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, to address his statement. Our conversation with her made it clear that the IBC and La Casita would indeed be connected making them one building. Her reasoning behind this was that elevators needed to be put in both buildings and that they were expensive, giving the assumption that they are too expensive to be put in both buildings. A later meeting with Dr. Parrott also confirmed this.
We believe that the great University of Florida, the best University in the state of Florida, where “It’s Great to be a Florida Gator”, can gather up enough funds to put separate elevators in the Institute of Black Culture and Institute of Hispanic/Latino Cultures, preserving them as 2 stand alone, independent, and individual buildings, in their own historical significance and importance. Please sign this petition to show your support for this cause!
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