Organization demands increased Black student enrollment, protests 'militarized' university police

Protesters with the Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society demanded ‘increases’ in ‘[b]lack enrollment’ and ‘returns’ of ‘ALL militarized equipment.’

The protests come as the University of Florida system has added a greater percentage of Hispanic and Asian students.

The Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) recently held a protest over Black student enrollment and “militarized” campus police. 

The Tampa Bay SDS website describes the organization as “fighting to make progressive change on campus and in the greater community.”

Their protest took place outside the University of South Florida (USF) President’s Mansion, the Lifsey House. SDS protestors shared demands with President Rhea Law for “increases” in “[b]lack enrollment,” according to a post on the SDS Instagram page

The SDS protest also demanded “returns” of “ALL militarized equipment” from the USF Police Department (USFPD), which the post says uses the 1033 program. The 1033 program allows the Department of Defense (DoD) to transfer excess military equipment to local law enforcement, according to the program’s coordinator, the Defense Logistics Agency.  

10 Tampa Bay News reported on the use of the 1033 program by “Tampa Bay area departments” and others. 

“As of June 2020 there are nearly 8,200 law enforcement agencies from across the U.S. that take part in the program,” according to 10 Tampa Bay News

Nearly a few months before that report, “40 businesses were burglarized and looted and five were set on fire” during protests in Tampa over the death of George Floyd. 

“The destruction was centered around the Busch Gardens and the University Mall area,” Fox 13 News reported. “At one point, the Champs Sports store along Fowler Avenue was engulfed in flames. That’s right across the street from the mall, where a crowd of protesters had gathered overnight.”

University Mall is near USF. 

video on the SDS Instagram page shared the protestors’ demands over diversifying the USF student body. An SDS member said, “[W]e started this campaign in 2019, which is four, five years ago at this point because we noticed that Black enrollment had been going down for the past 10 years. It was 12 percent 10 years ago, and now it’s only 9.5 percent.” 

“It’s clear the university, even though it claims to care about diversity, is not doing enough to take care of its Black students or track Black students,” the member continued. 

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In the 2011-2012 report from the USF annual Fact Book, the total number of Black students in the USF system was 4,956, making up 10.9 percent of the student body. White students amounted to 28,861, or 63.5 percent of the student body, and the total number of students in the USF system was 47, 214. 

The 2012-2013 report showed similar percentages. 

In the most recent report for the 2022-2023 school year, Black students dropped to 9.1 percent of the USF system student body while white students dropped by a greater number of percentage points. White students now make up 50.4 percent of the student body. 

The 2022-2023 report does not share demographics by campus like the 2011-2012 report. 

The changes come, in part, from increases in the percentages of Hispanic and Asian students. Hispanic students make up 22.9 percent of the student body, compared to 16 percent in the 2011-2012 school year. Asian students are now 8.6 percent of the student body, compared to the reported 5.8 percent from 2011-2012. 

Campus Reform has reported on efforts by colleges and universities to diversify their student bodies and faculty members, including recruiting “Latinx,” or Hispanic faculty. A report shared an initiative from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) to hire a “‘Latinx Cluster.’” 

One job posting asked applicants to “submit a cover letter explaining how their ‘research applies to Latinx populations,’” according to Campus Reform

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Some efforts to diversify students have allegedly discriminated against Asian Americans. When the Supreme Court heard the case over Harvard University’s race-conscious admissions, Campus Reform shared oral arguments from a lawyer for Students for Fair Admissions

‘Asians should be getting into Harvard more than whites, but they don’t because Harvard gives them significantly lower personal ratings,’” attorney Cameron Norris said. “‘Harvard ranks Asians less likable, confident, and kind, even though the alumni who actually meet them disagree.’” 

Tampa Bay SDS, the University of South Florida, and the USF Police Department have been contacted for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.