The streets of Gainesville are public and a place where people from all backgrounds can gather. This is a picture of University Ave, a place where there are different kinds restaurants and places to visit. I would say that this is a place people from all backgrounds gather because their purpose for being on University Ave pertains to eating and socializing with people regardless of their background. The streets are also public and in today's day and age no one is banned from walking the streets no matter their background and practices.
To begin, I am not signaling out any particular Greek sorority nor fraternity. However, based on my experience and the experience of others at the University of Florida, I would like to express that most organizations under the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council are unwelcoming to underrepresented minorities. From the beginning of the rush process, students are expected to fit a particular image, if they do not fit that image then they are not given a bid to join the organization. To the underrepresented community, the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Council are labeled as the "whites only" community, mostly because that is the background of the majority of their members. I do want to credit that there are some people of color that end up joining these councils, but they are nothing more than a token to fit their "diverse" quota. Such actions discourage people from joining and also most membership dues are over $6,000, money that people from a low socioeconomic status do not have.
When I think of a place that does not divide people, I think of Shands Hospital, mostly because it is a place that people go to for help. The hospital is seen as a resource that is meant to be utilized by all regardless of their race, socioeconomic status or cultural practices. The hospital is a place of gathering to address ones health and medical condition, not a place to discuss politics or opposition to a particular topic. Hospitals are the symbol of facilities that provide a helping hand to all people when they need it.
The agricultural fields is a place of division. It is a place where division exists due to socioeconomic status. Normally, the people that enter these fields are seasonal migrant farmworkers who are hired by employers to harvest different agricultural products. There is no sign or law meant to keep people out; however, people from high socioeconomic status keep themselves out from doing the labor. U-Pick farms do exist, but the sad reality is that U-Pick farms are seen as fun and something people get to do at least once a year; however, in regards to a season harvest, migrant farmworkers are in the fields working from sunset to sunrise to get the job done. Most of the people that work in these fields are undocumented and it is important to remember that they do not have a preference in choosing where to work so they are essentially trapped. With no degree and no social security, undocumented workers are seen having to work in the fields with no sight of advancing to a place with higher pay or benefits.
During football season, people from all around gather due to their passion for football. I think this is one of the few spaces within the University of Florida where people forget where they come from and gather for the football games. Alumni, students, the Gainesville community all enjoy football season. It is a very different environment in the fall in comparison to the spring semester. I've witnessed how people can gather in one stadium and cheer on their team. The Gator spirit is vibrant in all kinds of weather and it is what makes people want to be in the same space, sharing the same experience.
The new, remodeled Reitz Union is another space that has upgraded to accommodate the needs of people that are not able-bodied and is also more inclusive to all genders. With the reconstruction, I would say that the Reitz Union has listened to the needs of all people and has made it an effort to make people feel welcomed. The Reitz is considered the heart of campus that meets the demands of all by providing the resources that are essential for everyone. This is the home of student organizations, the central location for Preview and the space for administration. It creates no boundaries, but rather a space for open communication and gathering.
Turlington Plaza is also known as the free speech zone. On a regular school day, you see students walk freely in between periods to go to class or to lunch. You see students from different student organizations gather to promote the mission and their upcoming events. We also have the National Panhellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council gather on every Fourth Friday to step and stroll showcasing their traditions. The environment of Turlington Plaza is vibrant and it makes people feel accepted. Students are given the opportunity to showcase their thoughts, ideas and beliefs without judgment. The purpose of Turlington Plaza is to allow people to gather and speak freely about the issues affecting them and their community.
The Institute of Hispanic Latino Cultures, also known as La Casita, was established in 1994. The mission of La Casita along with the other departments under Multicultural and Diversity Affairs is to promote a safe space, a "home away from home". Originally this space along with the Institute of Black Cultures was a space that UF administration did not want to fund. Students of color had to fight for these spaces and advocate for their importance. Today, these spaces continue to promote a safe space for all people of color. The spaces also welcome people who wish to learn about diversity; however, amidst the students, its not unusual for some people to question their purpose. Some students believe that there is no need for these spaces; however, I beg to differ. As a person of color these spaces unite underrepresented minorities to think of ways to mobilize our community in a predominant white institution. As someone that has been in these spaces for the last 4 years, the department has had a lack of funding when it comes to programming and our demands have not been met, I sometimes ponder whether administration only created this space to keep us secluded and minimally contempt with the space so that we would not demand more. In a sense these spaces are a barrier that prevents people of color from breaking the glass ceiling just because of backdoor UF administration politics that take place close door, but at the same time this space provides a welcoming environment for people from different backgrounds that feel unwanted on campus.