UF dorm to host 'counterspace grounded in the Black experience'
Starting this fall, University of Florida students can apply to live in a dorm called the Black Cultural Living Learning Community (LLC).
The community “welcomes all students and is a space to live, learn, and lead together in a multicultural environment,” according to the UF Housing and Residence website, which notes that “residents will participate in intentional academic and co-curricular experiences exploring the Black experience and supporting holistic success at UF.”
"Carving out this section of campus will lead to isolation [and] the fostering of negativity."
The Black Cultural LLC also provides study spaces, leadership courses, special tutoring programs, and even organizes visits to local businesses in Gainesville that are owned by African Americans, focusing its activities around 10 “Community Pillars,” which include Pan-Africanism, cultural competence, social justice, and multiculturalism.
The program was created in partnership with Black Affairs at UF, a project of the school’s office of Multicultural & Diversity Affairs, which has previously hosted events such as “Black Muslim Appreciation Day,” a talk on “The N Word,” and a demonstration against police shootings.
UF refers to the LLC as “a counterspace grounded in the Black experience for students to live, learn, and lead together in a multicultural environment,” noting that participants will have opportunities to “cultivate relationships with Black UF alumni, government officials, industry leaders, and local business owners.”
In addition, the LLC endeavors to “create a safe and open space for discussion of personal experiences and current events,” support recruitment and retention of black students, and “create opportunities for students to explore black history and art,” along with facilitation “integration” with the larger university community.
According to WUFT, the LLC is one of several initiatives recommended by a Black Student Affairs Task Force, which also called for a town hall discussion to discuss its findings the hiring of a chief diversity and inclusion officer.
The programming will be led by a resident assistant, who shared her perspective on the LLC website.
“I am passionate about this LLC because as a Black student at the University of Florida, I began my collegiate experience, coming from a predominantly black neighborhood, feeling like I didn’t belong, also feeling like I would not be able to maintain my ‘Blackness’ or share in the exchange of experiences from other Black students because there were so few,” RA Olivia Brown stated. “I quickly learned I was wrong. After becoming involved with the Black Student Union and having the opportunity to not only serve but explore the black community, I found that all of those inhibitions soon dissipated because there was not only a place for me but there was also room for me to grow and learn more.”
Not all students think the race-related housing program is a good idea, however, fearing that it reinforces the isolation of all students from disparate viewpoints
"It is unfortunate that we as individuals in this country tend to self-segregate ourselves along political, racial, cultural, and socioeconomic lines,” UF student Emily Washler told Campus Reform. “This LLC furthers the unfortunate environment that we have created ourselves by appearing to institutionalize self-segregation and eliciting the same concerns brought about during an era in this country that many people in the civil rights movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fought to abolish.”
Daniel Zamora, a member of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter, expressed similar sentiments, saying it is “preposterous” to think that separation would bring students together and citing Abraham Lincoln’s famous “house divided” quote.
“To assume that the Black community cannot strive unless it is secluded amongst itself is not only insensitive, but quite frankly a slap in the face to work that's been done over the course of past century to positively grow, embrace, and achieve a stronger community and society via diversity and the sharing of ideas similar and dissimilar to your own,’” he remarked. “The only way we can achieve a stronger campus is by airing out the issues that divide us, not create a sect of our community that divides us. Carving out this section of campus will lead to isolation, the fostering of negativity, and a direction of seclusion that will hinder our campus' ability to grow together.”
“If the University of Florida really ‘values and respects diversity’ as their Diversity and Social Justice Statement claims, I challenge them to get rid of the LLC and bring a black conservative speaker to our campus,” UF student Daniel Weldon wrote in an op-ed for The New Guard. “Someone like Ward Connerly, Deroy Murdock, Star Parker, Herman Cain, Jesse Lee Peterson, or Lt. Col. Allen West. Let’s start a real discussion and exchange of ideas we should expect from our University.”
UF officials do not agree with these student concerns, however, asserting that programs like the Black Cultural LLC are effective at improving educational outcomes.
“These supportive communities have been shown to guide successful outcomes for students including better graduation rates and the formation of lifelong connections,” UF Director of Communications Margot Winick told Campus Reform.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @laurenacooley