Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Education

UF students say O’Connell Center shouldn’t be named after ‘racist’ ex-president

A group of University of Florida students want to rename the Stephen O’Connell Center.

Also known as the "O’Dome," the 10,000-seat multipurpose arena is used for graduation, concerts and Gators’ sporting events and named after the university’s sixth president, Stephen O’Connell.

UF’s Challenge Party, a student government political party, started a campaign and petition to rename the center because of how they say O’Connell treated black UF students during his tenure.

"This person was someone who, if he had his way, would have black students not even exist at this university," Shayli Patel, vice presidential candidate for the Challenge Party, told WCJB-Ch. 16.

The party posted a video explaining their reasoning on Facebook on Tuesday. They also cited a 2003 history book, African Americans at the University of Florida, written by Betty J. Stewart-Dowdell and Kevin M. McCarthy.

The video featured the story of Virgil Hawkins, a black man who was denied entry to UF’s College of Law in 1949. Hawkins and 85 other black students were denied admission to the university from 1948 and 1956, according to documents.

Hawkins petitioned the Florida Supreme Court but was denied — and O’Connell, a justice at the time, concurred with the decision.

O’Connell was UF’s president from 1967 to 1973 — a time of great civil and campus unrest due to desegregation.

While UF was desegregated in 1958, according to the university’s online history, by 1971 there were only 343 black students on campus compared to the white student body of 20,000. That’s about 0.2 percent of the student population that year.

Students protest protested outside Tigert Hall on April 15, 1971 and tried to meet with O’Connell. About 50 of them marched into his office with a petition. They were asked to leave and left without incident.

Then two other larger groups came to the office, according to UF’s historical account, and O’Connell refused to listen to their demands. Protesters refused to leave, and 66 students were arrested what came to be known as "Black Thursday."

The incidents that day caused 123 black students and two black faculty to leave the university, according to the account.

The Challenge Party’s petition had gathered nearly 200 signatures by Thursday afternoon.

"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," the petition read.

Janae Moodie, the Challenge party’s student government presidential candidate, told the Independent Florida Alligator that if the center is renamed, then students should decide what the new name would be.

"I know that students haven’t only spoken to Challenge Party about this concern," she said. "We’re handing the power to the students to speak."

Comments
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Published: 05/21/18
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18

Hooper: SEL lends a solution to the increasingly toxic world of kids

An incident recently arose between students at Jesuit High School and Academy of the Holy Names that involved allegations of cyberbullying, homophobia, misogyny and assault.It only involved a fraction of the students at two of Tampa’s most prestigiou...
Published: 05/19/18
Updated: 05/22/18
At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

SANTA FE, Texas - They gathered here by the dozens Friday evening, wearing their school colors, T-shirts that said "Texas Tough," while huddling under the shade of a gaggle of pine trees, not 11 hours after the first shots were fired.They came to pra...
Published: 05/19/18
‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

Paige Curry tried to keep calm Friday morning as a gunman tore through her Santa Fe High School, eventually killing 10 people and injuring another 10. The 17-year-old watched as a girl nearby panicked. Curry, herself terrified, considered running out...
Published: 05/19/18
Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Before they could get away, we asked the top graduates at Pinellas County’s private schools to write a Twitter-length paragraph about what’s on their mind. We suggested they reflect on the past or the future, or talk about the people who helped them ...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18