Alana Gomez

Alana Gomez

"First in the South and Second to None in the Nation": President O'Connell's vision for the University of Florida.


Alana Gomez


Steven Noll


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


President O’Connell headed UF from 1967 to 1973. His presidency was shadowed by turmoil as students and faculty alike navigated a changing landscape in the wake of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement. From 1965 to 1972, Black and white students on campuses across America protested for greater racial diversity and inclusion at their universities. However, as students took to arms on campus for greater diversity, O’Connell had his own plans for his university to make it as he said it, “First in the South and Second to none in the Nation.” Eventually these differences would cause an eruptive reaction at UF. On April 15th, 1971, 66 Black students were arrested in a peaceful protest at Tigert Hall, an administrative building. 123 Black students and two Black faculty members left UF over the incident later known as Black Thursday. This past summer, fall, and spring, I spent a lot of time digging through university archives and local newspapers to find how such a conflict came to be at UF, and what the lasting impacts are on today’s racial culture on campus. Through these primary resources, as well as books written on the Black Campus movement, I have put together a narrative of O’Connell’s version of UF, a vision that didn’t include Black or minority students. In my research I analyze what Black enrollment looks like 50 years later, and the importance of memory and commemoration, especially for universities that try to avoid their dark past.


Hover over the image below to zoom in or click to view full screen.

Research Pitch

View a 3-minute research pitch below.

To comment below, please sign in with Facebook or Google (using your ufl account) by clicking the little round icons to the right. If you decide, you can post as a guest by entering name and email below, but will lose some features. You can also subscribe to the student’s page to get email updates on new comments.

Leave a Reply