UF To End Use Of Prison Labor, End ‘Gator Bait’ Chant

Jun 18, 2020

The University of Florida is announcing multiple “strategic goals” to combat racism and racial inequities on its Gainesville campus.

“Amid global protests and intentional reflection here on campus, many UF colleges, departments and individuals have joined the growing effort to address racism and inequity,” Fuchs said in the press release on the University’s website.

UF will require training of all students, faculty and staff on “racism, inclusion and bias,” while awarding competitive grants for faculty to use on topics like race and justice. 

The university will also end its reliance on prison and jail inmates for farm labor. 

“The symbolism of inmate labor is incompatible with our university and its principles and therefore this practice will end,” the statement read.

The next school year will focus on the Black experience, along with racism and inequity. The university will feature speakers and courses on the subject, organize town hall meetings for discussions and devote a day to community service in the spring semester.

One change that has already received backlash on social media is the removal of the “Gator Bait” chant at sporting events. 

“While I know of no evidence of racism associated with our ‘Gator Bait’ cheer at UF sporting events, there is horrific historic racist imagery associated with the phrase,” Fuch’s statement read. 

The Gator Band will no longer use the cheer. A petition to keep the cheer alive had received over a thousand signatures within hours of the announcement. 

Fuchs is also creating two task forces  — one to document the history of UF relating to race and ethnicity, and another to review the names of campus buildings.

“I am personally committed to removing any monuments or namings that UF can control that celebrate the Confederacy or its leaders,” Fuchs read. 

UF is also working with the Gainesville Police Department and University Police Department to consider reforms and review its force policies.

Fuchs said the university will increase efforts to recruit, support and retain its Black students, faculty and staff, and publish demographic trend data for each of its departments. 

The university is also increasing its efforts to support small businesses and work to create programs that help East Gainesville, which has a majority black population and is consistently suffering from economic hardships. 

“It is past time for UF to commit and engage in this challenging, uncomfortable, transformational work,” Fuchs said in the statement. “We know that we cannot undo lifetimes of injustice and racism, but we believe we can make progress - in education, in advancing truth, reconciliation and justice, and in anti-racism, equality and working to eradicate inequities.”

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.