Challenge Party Petition to Rename the Stephen C. O'Connell Center
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Stephen C. O'connell, a former President of our university, is marred in a racist past.
In 1948 Virgil Hawkins, an African American, applied to the University of Florida Law School and was denied solely because of his race. Mr. Hawkins sued, but the Florida Supreme Court with then Chief Justice Stephen C. O’Connell, struck down Hawkins’ appeal because he was black.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, as University President, O'Connell refused to meet with black student leaders to discuss changes they wanted to see on UF’s campus, instead, when they showed up at his office, President O'Connell had them removed. The removal prompted protests outside of Tigert, leading to the arrests of dozens of black students after over several hundred students were gassed by police. This April 1971 event became known as Black Thursday. O’Connell refused to budge on the charges against the black students, resulting in a third of all the black students at UF to withdraw. The calls for President O'Connell to resign grew louder and louder, but he ignored them.
Today, many black student-athletes are made to play in a building named after a man who resented the desegregation of the University of Florida and fought to keep black students from entering the University in the first place. When the O’Connell center was being built in 1975, black students voiced their opposition to this building being named after him, but this man’s name went up anyways.
Sign our petition so we can put an end to the glorification and immortalization of this racist and hate-filled man, and stop upholding our University’s history of racism and discrimination.
Please use your UF Email so we can gauge the student support for this initiative to change the name of the O’Connell center.
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