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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
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Interviewee: Student interviews at the Plaza of The Americas
Interviewer: James Wilson
Date: April 12, 1996
W: My name is James Wilson, I am interviewing Damon Austin as a
part of the series of the Plaza of The America's project.
Today is April 12, 1996, I am conducting the interview at
the residence of James Wilson at 3504 30th Terrace in
Gainesville, Florida. Damon, would you please state your
name and then spell your entire name?
A: My full name is Damon Lorne Austin.
W: Thank you. Damon, what are you studying here at the
University of Florida?
A: I am a student in agricultural engineering.
W: How long have you been a student at the University of
A: This is my fifth year as a student.
W: Are you originally from Florida?
A: Not originally, I am originally from New York city and my
family moved to South Florida when I was about five years
W: So you went to high school, junior high school here?
A: Exactly, yes.
W: What made you interested in coming to the University of
A: I had not originally planned to come to The University of
Florida. Actually, I originally planned to attend another
university and sometimes things happen in an individual's
life that you have to take an alternate route and University
of Florida happened to be one of those.
W: What was the university that you wanted to go to?
A: I was originally going to go to Georgia Institute of
W: For engineering?
A: Yes, for engineering.
W: How have you enjoyed your stay here. For example, are you a
Gator, do you go to the football games, are you well
connected to the culture here at Gainesville?
A: I have never attended a football game and that surprises
people. I have been to five or six basketball games, a
couple of soccer games, but that is women's soccer team
which they have a new team just within the last year. Other
than that, no i would not consider myself to be a Gator. I
am not a Ra-Ra type of individual. So, no I would not feel
that I fit in very well with the University promotional type
of genre, I guess, but I consider myself a validated
W: I have explained to you about the project, the Plaza of The
Americas, and I would like for you to just give me your own
thoughts about the Plaza. What are your immediate thoughts
when you think of the Plaza of The Americas?
A: Until you explained to me earlier the history of the Plaza
of The Americas, I did not know exactly what that history
was. I did not even know the name of that specific area on
campus until about three years of being a student. I
certainly have never seen any representation of their being
some sort of Latin-American history or Central-American
history or anything other than just a general space for
general purpose activities, is what it seems to me.
Particularly, I do not see many black students hanging out
there or many students other than what one would call
"white" students and I, myself, being a black student, I
took quick notice to this my first semester here. I noticed
that because I would always go to the library which was
Library West so my impressions of it are that it just seems
to be a general purpose area that there is not a whole lot
of pressure for students to conform to any kind of standard
of behavior. Simply, there was this frisbee throwing or
digs running around campus. it is almost a free-for-all at
some times, but I do not feel endangered when I walk through
there. I just do not feel that it is comforting either.
W: Why is it not comforting?
A: There does not seem to be an element of people there or
anyone who seem to have similar interests as me there. I
would say that really there only seems to be one type or
limited types of people there if you do not count the
visitors like the preachers or whoever is out there while
people are trying to publicize some sot of specific point of
view or something like that and that does not happen all too
often. It is not as politically focused as you made it seem
to be in this description.
W: Right, in the 1960s and the 1970s, as I explained to you,
there was a lot of political activity on the Plaza. As a
student here for five years, have you noticed any type of
political activity that would draw you to go to the Plaza?
A: I have not noticed any political activity that would draw
me, particularly to go but I could not say that I have been
well informed on every political activity that has occurred
there. I know, for example, the NOW organization has had
some type of functions there, etc.
W: What is the NOW organization?
A: I cannot remember the exact wording.
W: What kind of organization is it?
A: It is a women's organization. Certainly, it is an
organization that puts forth...
W: Is it National Organization of Women?
A: Yes, exactly, National Organization of Women and they are
politically and otherwise concerned with the interests of
women and how women can better deal with the social issues
and get along better in this environment.
W: So that type of activity was at the Plaza?
A: Yes, this was at least over a year ago but I think it was
during National Women's Month. Now there is a National
Women's Month that follows, I do believe, Black History
Month, so I guess that would be March. It is just one of
the many functions they probably had there.
W: You are African-American and you mentioned that the Plaza
did not have people who you could identify with, generally,
you had identified the people as white. Where would you say
that predominantly the African-American students would hang-
out on campus? Is there a particular spot?
A: Any particular spot that, I suppose, any one might initially
be able to see a lot of African-American or black students
would hang-out, could be what is called the set. It is the
area in front of Turlington Hall, particularly, actually the
section that is closest to the Marston Science Library.
That is where one could find a significant number as
compared to what you might find anywhere else with black
students hanging-out so to speak. I suppose they do it in
between class, just like other students might do so in other
parts of the "set."
W: Would you consider the set to be an extension of the Plaza
of the Americas?
A: No, personally, to me they seem to be two very different
places. The Plaza of The Americans seems more, I suppose in
these terms today, more alternatively oriented to the
student population. Whereas, the student population at the
set would be more organization oriented in general and when
you see a population of white students there, much of the
time there is an organization with a table set up. Whereas
with black students there are also tables set up, but being
a black student I know that black students also feel pretty
much that that is one of the few or only places they can go
to see other black students beyond the population of their
own specific classroom.
W: Where do you hang-out on the campus? Tell me more about
where you would socialize. Would you hang-out at the Plaza
of The Americas? Have you ever eaten any of the food of the
Hare Krishna or have you sung Kum-Baya with the local guitar
players that hang out there on the Plaza?
A: I suppose I could say, if you are serious I have never even
heard anyone sing Kum-Baya there.
W: I am just kidding here.
A: No. I, as an individual, I would not hang-out at the Plaza.
A: As I stated before, I do not really feel that the population
there have my interest in mind. Although, I could hang-out
with a variety of students, but it would be only to a
certain degree. I could hang-out with the average ideal of
what a white fraternity student would be, but that would
only be to a certain degree of interest for me.
W: So where do you hang-out?
A: I do not hang-out anywhere, actually, I am pretty much
focused on my studying and my hobbies are sports. I suppose
I hang-out in the city of Gainesville, if you will, because
I perhaps have played in Tennis challenges, these types of
things, and I get to know local people as well as people
affiliated with the University. Also I play a great degree
of intra-mural sports, if I can.. I try to play football, I
try to get involved with that. so my hanging-out is more
socially oriented with a sport twist to it.
W: So you never hung-out in the five years at the set or you
have never congregated there to talk with friends on your
way to class?
A: Not for any significant amount of time. When I say
significant amount of time, I mean for even more than thirty
minutes of an afternoon and probably in the five years, if
you add all of my time that I spent there, perhaps maybe
about an hour and a half.
W: So why is it so important for students to congregate and the
second question is, how have you come to observe the
location of white students and black students? Is it just
in passing constantly, because you seem to be a very serious
student with no time to really socialize in between classes?
How have you come to observe these different locations of
people on the set and on the Plaza? Is it common knowledge?
A: Is it common knowledge...
W: That blacks students hang-out on the set and generally,
white students hang-out on the Plaza?
A: Without a doubt. It is common knowledge, speaking
particularly about the set, it is common knowledge that
there are black students and white students on the set. It
is also common knowledge that black students hang-out in one
part of the set and white students hang-out in another part
of the set.
W: So the set is segregated?
A: Yes, almost shall never meet, but there is always
W: Where are those different locations?
A: As I mentioned, the black students pretty much hang-out as
close as you can to the Marston Science Library and still
being connected to the main walkway.
W: Is there any significance of why that location?
A: I really could not tell you. I really would not know. But
I know the white students hang-out along the wall that is
connected to a rear bike rack and is directly across the
street from the bell tower. I do not know if there is any
significance to that either. Then there are also elements
of white students which may or may not be affiliated with
the white students you see hanging-out on that wall around
the rock there, which is called the Turlington Rock. That
is pretty much it. Then you have your flocks of people that
are consistently going through.
W: So this is all informal. I mean, how does one learn where
to socialize and where to hang-out. When you were a
freshman at The University of Florida, is it just that you
see people who are like you and you congregate in that
general area. If let's say, you are a freshman and you do
not see anyone on the Plaza like you, so you chose not to
hang-out there? Is it just a general socialization process?
A: When I was a freshman, I initially, I suppose as anyone else
sought to hang out with "people who were more like me, who
were people who would hang-out with various types of
individuals. I am not, personally, used to a lot of
segregation in a social sense. I am used to being able to
deal with and interrelate with various types of people and I
did not see that represented in either of the groups so I
initially never gravitated towards any of them and that
behavior sort of stuck with me.
W: Is that typical of what you would say with other students?
I know you can only speak for yourself, but would that be a
typical representation of other students when they get here
at the University of Florida?
A: I have heard quite a few students say similar things and it
may be dependent upon what stage the student is at in their
academic career, where they are as a person, but I have
heard all types. I have heard students say they only hang
out with one group and not another and I have heard students
say they hang-out with neither and that is, I suppose, a
group of its own almost which does not assemble though.
W: If there were a political rally, let's say right now at my
alma mater University of Texas, there is a serious move to
dismantle the whole concept of affirmative action at the
University of Texas and let's say that happened here at the
University of Florida, where would students integrate
together in order to listen to speakers, to debate, I mean,
have you ever seen any joint type of efforts, like say,
resistance against apartheid? Have there been, in the five
years you have been here, any type of physical place on
campus where all types of students come together in protest
or in harmony? Is there any kind of place like that?
A: There are places I can imagine from personal experience and
from memory I really cannot say that. I am sure there have
been some organizations which have tried to purpose getting
students together, perhaps on the Plaza of the Americas or
on the set or even in front of the student union in that
large land area there. But I would not be able to tell you
which one is the most important to the student population.
I think it is a matter of just a provision of the expected
turn-out. I could not say that there is a specific area.
There are several areas that may provide for that type of
function, but I do not recall any function that seemed to
have occurred that I have really witnessed.
W: Have you ever considered partaking into the food of the Hare
Krishna? I mean, you are a healthy young man and you seem
to be very aware of the importance of food and recreation,
you say that you are a semi-pro jock-type, would you
consider eating some of that vegetarian food and just
hanging-out with some of the people who play guitars and
have their dogs there?
A: I am more of an individualist type of person so I do not
have an aversion to meeting anyone or to hanging-out with
anyone, but in itself, the Plaza still seems to me like a
large group of people as though you might see a group on the
set or one of the two groups I cited on the set. I have
considered eating the Krishna food, it has just never been
paramount for me at any moment to actually try it. It has
not appealed to my senses enough. Maybe it did not smell
like what I am used to or maybe I did not look at it and
say, hey, I have to try that. That is not to say that none
of it is appetizing, it just did not strike me at those
times that I have had the opportunity to walk through and
witness perhaps on my way to class or from class and I am
concerned with getting home.
W: SO that would be the one selling attraction for you would be
eating the food of the Hare Krishna. Is there any other
activity there that you would be interested in, like the
preachers, the ministers there, the evangelists, have you
ever stopped to listen to them?
A: I have stopped to listen, it is more of a show to me than
anything. Not particularly from what the preachers are
saying but from the entire atmosphere. It seems as though
the preachers are walking out there almost intentionally to
be persecuted and then you actually hear some students who
might commonly be on the Plaza during the times that the
preachers come out and simply try to ridicule and blast and
completely challenge the preachers. From time to time, I
imagine that the preacher says things that are out of order
or condemning of an entire population of people and then
that is taken with offense and then it is reacted to. SO,
to me it seems like a mess of a situation. I have been
through there and it seemed ridiculous, but it just seems to
me that is just one of the things that happens at the Plaza.
W: You do have some sense of observation there. Is that a two-
minute observation, you keep walking, or have you stopped
there for a significant amount of time. You have given a
specific amount of time that you have spent on the set in
the five years that you have been here, can you give the
same type of summation of how much time, perhaps, that you
have spent on the Plaza?
A: I have spent, literally, this is not a joke, probably at
most, if you do not count that I am walking through, that I
have actually stopped somewhere between five and fifteen
minutes in the all the time that I have been at the Plaza in
all these years.
W: Damon, is there anything else that you would like to add
that we have not discussed about the Plaza of The Americas
or the set in front of Turlington?
A: If this is about the Plaza itself, I do not think I have
really cited what I see when I walk through the Plaza. I do
not think I have cited what I feel. I do not feel in any
way averted or offended. I can imagine that a completely
stuffed-shirt person might say, I want you to avert the
people at the Plaza and these types of things. It is just
that if the Plaza really has the purpose that you cited to
me, I see that purpose going unfulfilled in the time that I
have been here.
W: Can you tell me what you understood the purpose to be?
A: I understood the purpose to be, at least in some way,
honorary to Latin-America or what we call, Central America
or any other type of country in America that sort-of has
that history to it. I do not see any, and maybe it is that
I have missed it, but I really do not think so, any type of
commemorative item or painting or anything that would be a
commemorative mainstay at the Plaza. Unfortunately, it does
not surprise me that you said that was the purpose of it
because to me it seems that fits right in with the culture
of the University to give false honor to maybe a culture of
people or maybe a section of people or a race of people even
just in name and that name is going and being used for
something else, for its own purposes at any rate anyway.
W: Have you ever seen the Chinese or Latino, we have mainly
spoken of white and black and I always try to talk about
diversity and much broader terms. Have you noticed any
pattern in the five years that you have been here of where
the Latino students, particularly would hang-out or the
Chinese students or the foreign students for example? Are
there any different areas besides the set and the Plaza of
The Americas that those students would congregate in
A: If not for organizational purposes, for example at the union
in perhaps some sort of meeting room. I really do not see
any environmentally exposed place where a group of people
could experience and appreciate the many days of sunshine we
have, the nice weather we have here. Actually the only
people I see appreciating the weather and the sunshine and
all that we have here in a mass sense would be what one
would call a "white" population. I do not mind stating
white or black as it is, because if those are the two
extremes, which they are as far as we know, they are the two
extremes which exist in this American society, then every
other type of person will fall in between those, at least
from a phenotypic racial standpoint and that is important to
W: The last thing that you would say is that you typically do
not hang-out in either. You do not hang-out necessarily at
the set nor have you been interested in hanging-out at the
Plaza. Generally, if I can understand your situation is
that you are a very serious student, you go through both of
those areas, but you are mainly associating yourself with
sport-like activities and generally, these are some
observations you have formulated over the years of being a
student here. Is that a good summary of what you said?
A: I could try to answer that like this, I think that every
place that has been designated, let us say the set, I think
that anyone affiliated with the University would be happy
that there was an area where students could hang-out which
we call the set and also a place named the Plaza of The
Americas where students can hang-out. I think these places
are designed for, ultimately, the uplift of students across
the board, whoever the students are. For example, Plaza of
The Americas, if it has been named that then it is obviously
set forth to honor either a population, an area or a culture
of people, something to that affect. That goes directly
along with the uplift of a particular type of people. I
would say, on the set, it is more general purpose and
speaking on the point of uplift, I really do not see the
fact that white students are really doing a whole lot to
uplift themselves other than just relaxing, which is fine
because to me, in my personal opinion, there are many other
facets of the University that focus on specifically their
own uplift. I think, moreso than any other group of people,
black students congregate there particularly to feel a sense
of uplift that is not felt at all anywhere on the University
campus to a large degree. I think if you interview quite a
few of the black students out there, they would say
W: What would you recommend as an uplift? What is an example
of, and what is the need of the uplift?
A: The point I am getting to is saying that I go through now in
order to relate to those younger black students and let them
know that there is an element of a black student population
and through my relations with other black professors, that
there is an element of people who are liked and that they
can communicate with and they know appreciate them and give
them more hope in succeeding through the system and through
the matriculation at the University and really to monitor
not in a George Orwell "big brother" type of way, but more
in a loving big brother type of way to really just help, as
I said, in uplift, and inspiring them to achieve whatever it
is that they need to achieve in order to function as viable
beings in this society and so that they feel good about
W: My last question. Can you tell me, Damon, whether your
future goals after you graduate from the University of
Florida, what are your plans if you have gone that far.
What will you do?
A: That is an extensive list. A few of the things I will say
is, basically, I would like to do research in agriculture,
particularly Africa, as well as the Middle East.
I would also like to teach at a major university in the
United States once I have done my research. I would like to
be able to ultimately help a large part of the world
population in an agricultural sense to be productive and os
that people have control over their own agricultural
situations to where they are controlling their own
W: My name is James Wilson, today I am conducting an interview
as part of the Plaza of The Americas series. I am
interviewing Joyce Marie Norris, a student here at the
University of Florida. The interview is being conducted at
720 S.W. 34th Street Apt J100, this is the apartment of
Joyce Norris. The time is 7:00, April 16, 1996. Joyce can
you please state your full name and spell your full name for
N: Joyce Marie Norris.
W: Thank you. Joyce can you state basically what are you
studying here at the University and how many years have you
been at the University of Florida?
N: Right now I am a Junior, so I have been here for about three
years. My major is in History, but I am also studying in
the sciences for going to a Chiropractic program in the
W: Are you originally from Florida?
N: Yes, I grew up in Miami, Florida.
W: I have explained to you about the history of the Plaza of
The Americas, what are your immediate thoughts about the
Plaza. If someone says, hey I am going to go and hang-out
at the Plaza of The Americas, would you know where to go on
N: Yes, I know where the location is.
W: Did you know the name of the Plaza of The Americas, or did
you have any prior knowledge of the history of the Plaza of
The Americas before this interview?
N: Yes I did. In fact, I knew about the Plaza in my
orientation when first arriving at the University of
W: Briefly tell me what you know of the Plaza?
N: From what I was told, the Plaza of The Americas, I do not
know exactly where the origin of the name came from, but the
certain trees that are lining the boundaries of the Plaza,I
was told was from a meeting of all the presidents and head
people of the different countries of South America and each,
in a sign of peace or contribution, they brought a tree that
was original from each country and planted it in the park
and there is a plaque at each tree. That is about as much
as I was told. I was also told it was a meeting place for
all the students.
W: What type of students do you generally see that would hang-
out at the Plaza of The Americas?
N: The average person I see at The Plaza of The Americas is
usually a non-student, I would say, homeless person. The
only reason why I am saying homeless is based on the clothes
they wear, it is very tattered, they usually have dogs,
heavy back packs. That is about the average person I would
see there. Also the Hare Krishnas, many of them there and
of course, the people expecting a free meal from the Hare
W: Would you say that predominantly most of the students that
you see at the Plaza are a mixture of races, Hispanic,
African-American, White, or what would be your general
observation of the Plaza?
N: I would say not. I would say that the average person there
is white. I am sure there is people crossing through. I
have never seen a congregation other than of white people
there. I have never seen any minority represented there at
W: Where would you generally say the minority students
congregate on the campus of University of Florida?
N: I would say in the Turlington area, closer to the Marston
W: That is right outside of Turlington?
N: Yes, right outside of Turlington almost in the center
pathway between Turlington and the Marston called CSE
W: Where do you generally hang-out because I am not getting the
impression that the Plaza of The Americas is where you would
congregate to meet with your friends?
N: No, I have never hung-out there. Where me and my friends
usually congregate if necessary is usually what they have
termed "The Rock," based on the sculpture that is found
outside of Turlington.
W: So if I wanted to meet you I would say Joyce, meet me at The
Rock and you would know exactly where I was talking about?
W: Where do you normally see people of color, like Hispanics,
African-American students, Asian students. Where would they
N: Where i said before, it is usually in that area. The same
Turlington area, but more towards the library on the certain
concrete planars and benches and usually that is where I see
the areas. I see the Vietnamese clubs represented there,
the Latino clubs represented there and also the African-
American Greek organizations are being represented.
W: Are you familiar with the term "The Set"?
W: The Set is a term that is the geographical area that you
described African-American students generally call that the
Set. I was initially told that that is where a lot of the
black Greek type of step shows or activities take place.
Have you witnessed anything like that, sororities or
fraternities activities of the blacks?
N: I have never seen the step shows, but I have seen, in fact
it was two weeks ago, I saw a sort of sorority initiation
taking place, a black sorority.
W: Would you consider the Set, or that Turlington area, the
Rock to be an extension of the Plaza of The Americas?
N: No, I do not see it at all.
N: It is two totally different geographic areas and also two
totally different social areas. It is just obviously two
totally different groups of people. It is obvious, you
would never see one in the other.
W: You would say that the University of Florida is somewhat
segregated in its social places for their undergraduate
N: Highly. I see segregation highly based on race and based on
W: Are you a part of a Greek association?
N: No, I am not.
W: You are saying that the Plaza has mainly people who are non-
students but I have seen when I go to the library the
evangelists there, and I see students with backpacks that
would suggest that they are students hang-out and listen to
the evangelists. Have you ever observed that?
N: I have observed what you are talking about and I would
probably say the only reason those students are in that area
is because of the evangelists or because of a political
debate going on. If it was not for that, I am sure those
students would not be there.
W: Having given you some history of the Plaza, you realize that
back in the 1960s and 1970s there were a lot of political
activities that took place there. Would you say that that
tradition or that legacy still remains in the Plaza of The
Americas? You mentioned some political debates. Have you
noticed that the Plaza is a political area?
N: I would say it is a political area, strictly to the
definition of wherever there is a political campaign debate
or grouping going against some political forum in UF, that
is where it would be taking place. I do not think it is at
the same intensity as what you just spoke about in the
1960s. Every debate I have seen against student government,
against any even the local government of Gainesville, has
been at the Plaza of The Americas?
W: Did you participate in listening to those demonstrations?
N: The student government debates I listened to some, but that
was about the only debates that I actually listened to.
W: Have you ever taken part of the free meals by the Hare
Krishna or decided to stop by and listen to the guitar
players or the beads? Have you ever, as a student, decided
that Hey, it is a hot day, I want to hang-out at the Plaza?
W: What about at night when you pass through the Plaza going to
the library, have you ever been a part of a student group to
discuss class or whatever?
N: Never, in fact, while in the dormitories there were a number
of rapes that were associated with the Plaza of The Americas
which is what allowed as you walked through those certain
blue lights with the certain emergency phones, why there is
more there per square yard than anywhere else on campus.
The fact that it is done by students with the number of
rapes that I was told about is what makes me go completely
around the Plaza if I ever need to go anywhere on campus by
myself at night, but I have never gone to the Plaza at night
for any reason.
W: You are saying that rapes took place right there on the
Plaza at night?
N: Yes, attacks, purse snatchings, muggings, rapes at night.
W: Generally, this would be reported that they were non-
N: They were students.
W: They were students?
N: Yes, they were students and as I have been here for the past
three years, I have noticed more and more of trees cut down,
more lights put up, more securities and maybe now it is much
safer than when I first came here. You can always count on
a police officer to be around that area, but if you talk to
anyone, the Plaza of The Americas at night usually makes
some women feel a little fearful and raise their eyebrow to
W: Tell me more about your overall impression. When you first
came to University of Florida you said that you were given
information about this general area during the orientation.
If you can go back and remember, were you told that this
was a place that students congregated and played frisbee?
Was it told somewhat in the caveat that this was a place
that you would hang-out in the four years or five years that
you were a student?
N: Yes, in fact they strongly emphasized that this was such a
main area for students to hang-out and when I questioned why
there were so many non-students at that time, my orientation
was during the summer, and they said it was because it was
summer. When I attended here my first Fall, I expected to
see all of these students, but to my surprise as I described
to you now, it was basically the same type of person was
there three years ago that is there now.
W: Where else would you describe major congregating centers on
the University of Florida, beyond the Rock, the Set, the
Plaza of The Americas, is there any other area?
N: Not that I can really think of. Turlington is such a major
thoroughfare I guess you could say between the buses and
class that people usually stay in that area. A It of
people, I would not say a lot, not to the level of
Turlington, but many do congregate outside of Little Hall
around Carleton Auditorium. That is usually a popular area
because there is a food stand there, there is many benches,
plenty of trees, that is usually an area where some students
W: Can you tell me where you would go if you had to meet
someone on campus and you wanted to discuss what happened in
class or if you wanted to discuss a paper. I am just trying
to get a heartbeat of where that would be. Would that also
be outside of Turlington?
N: Due to my schedule, it is all science classes right now. It
would usually be at the CSE Library, in the library. If
this is about classes, it is usually I meet people at CSE
Library. If it is about another class, it is at the other
library which is called Library West. That is usually where
I call people to meet.
W: Is there anything that we have not discussed about the Plaza
of The Americas or the Set, that you would like to add at
N: Just that there is strong segregation on the campus today.
The Plaza of The Americas is not a student area. I just do
not think it is a student area. Of course, these people
have every right to be there, it is a public university,
they can be there, but it would be nice if there was more
students there. It is a very nice area, but the fact that
you are going to be harassed if you go there is quite
disappointing. That is about it, just a strong segregation
W: Where would you suggest that the University make some type
of inroads in terms of addressing the segregation? Many
believe that the Plaza of The Americas is this haven for
student activity, political activity, where would you, if
you had an opportunity to make it be known to the
administration here at the University of Florida, that in
fact the Set and the Rock and the Wall and the Plaza are
very isolated entities where people would not even consider
N: The fact that the University of Florida administration likes
to believe that the Plaza itself is a very integrated area
where all these students go to because I saw that through my
orientation where that was the main center place where we
always had to meet and I was just waiting until the Fall
when everyone is going to be there. I think if you want to
get to University of Florida students on a large-scale,
meaning everyone, you would have to go through The
Alligator, which is not tied to the University but everyone
reads it and if you want to get a large-scale reaction, I
think it would have to be through an editorial in the
W: You would think that people would actually respond because
the University has tried to, in the past, change then
physical layout of the Plaza and there was a lot of
reaction. You think that if someone wrote a commentary that
there is social segregation where people congregate before
and after class, that there would be some awareness of this?
N: There would be awareness. Would I say there would be a
reaction to it? I doubt it. The kind of student at
University of Florida, is not one to be socially aware and
want to change. They seem to be someone who wants to come
in, get their education and leave. So I do not know,
honestly, if I would say there would be a huge reaction, but
there would be awareness and you would have a large-scale
audience and it is up to that audience to react to it on
their own will because the only way anything is going to be
changed is if the students change it, no matter what the
administration does, nothing will be done unless the
students want it. So it is up to the students to want the
change and I just do not see that happening at the
University of Florida.
W: Joyce, tell me what are your plans after you graduate from
the University of Florida? You have an interesting mix, a
Humanities and a Science background.
N: I see it as almost an overall education I am trying to get.
I am trying to get the history and also plenty of sciences.
I enjoy history and the liberal arts, but I also plan on
going to Chiropracting school and due to their requirements
it is heavy science. After getting my history degree I
hopefully plan to attend school up north at a Chiropracting
W: That will be after one additional year here?
N: Yes, I have one more year. I plan on graduating Spring of
1997 and after that is when I will be attending a
W: I want to just thank you for the interview and I hope that
the Plaza of The Americas or the Set or the Rock or the Wall
will someday, I guess blend into just a social outlet where
people will feel comfortable with each other. Hopefully,
this could happen as an outset of this project, but we will
W: Hi, today it is April 14, 1996. I am continuing the series
of interviews on the Plaza of The Americas project. I am
interviewing Jeremy David Cohen at 915-B S.W. 6th Avenue in
Gainesville, Florida. The time is 4:30 and now I am going
to begin the interview. Jeremy will you please state your
full name and spell your name?
C: Jeremy David Cohen.
W: Thank you. Jeremy, please tell me briefly what you are
studying here at the University of Florida?
C: I am a graduate student in Anthropology, this is my second
year at the masters level particularly studying archeology.
W: Where are you from originally?
C: From California.
W: What part of California?
C: Northern California. The Monterey Peninsula.
W: So the climate here at Florida is not very different than
you are used to?
C: It is nasty here.
W: It is nasty here, why?
C: I do not like the humidity.
W: You do not have humidity in California?
C: Not where I lived, the heat is a dry heat.
W: I am from Texas, so I concur. I am from Dallas, so I am
used to a drier heat. Let me just ask you to get your
impressions about the Plaza of The Americas. I have briefly
talked to you before the interview about the history, some
of which you knew, but what are your immediate thoughts if
someone were to say tell me what you think about the Plaza
of The Americas?
C: My immediate thought?
C: The first things that come into mind?
W: Hippies, from the nineties hippies or hippies from the
C: No, nineties versions of hippies.
W: Define the hippie according to you?
C: That is problematic. A lot is based on clothing image. The
Plaza at times appears as if it were a piece of a Grateful
W: For those who are not familiar with the Grateful Dead can
you please tell me what specifically that is?
C: The Grateful Dead concerts have a lot of activities going on
that are not specifically the audience listening to the
performance. Juggling, Hackysacking, drum playing, drug
use, though I have not seen drug use on the Plaza of The
W: But you assume that it is there?
C: I assume there is people there who have drugs and are
willing to sell, but I have never seen that.
W: What about the Hare Krishna food? What about the
evangelists? What about the students with their dogs, the
frisbee playing? Have you participated in any of those
C: I have never eaten the Hare Krishna food, I do not like to
wait in line for food. Krishnas serve between twelve and
one and I try not eat between twelve and one.
C: I do not like waiting in line.
W: Even though the food is free?
C: I heard it is free or a willing donation on the part of the
consumer. What I am saying is that if I were to eat there I
would give them something, but no, I have never eaten the
Hare Krishna food.. I have stopped for the evangelists, I
enjoy watching the evangelists. I enjoy watching the
crowd's interaction with the evangelists.
W: What specifically do you like? What intrigues you about the
C: I like to hear what the evangelists have to say. I like the
interactions between the evangelists and the crowd.
W: When I pass there and just recently, the police were
involved because some students complained that the
evangelists were harassing them. Have you ever been
technically harassed by any of the preachers or evangelists
on the Plaza?
C: No, not at all. I have never had any direct interactions
with the evangelists.
W: So you have never been propositioned with the bible or a
C: Pamphlets yes. The pamphleteers I would not call them
evangelists. Perhaps they were, but these were young
people, I assume they were UF students that had positioned
themselves on one of the diagonal sidewalks and they were
handing out pamphlets about, I think, the Bible, I do not
W: What would be the racial composition of those who you see on
the Plaza predominantly?
C: Those who hang-out on the Plaza?
W: White. So you see no diversity. You do not see any people
at all other than white students?
C: Some of the Krishnas would probably be considered of color,
but in terms of permanent residents of the Plaza,so to
speak, it is not very diverse at all.
W: We talked briefly about the history, what do you know about
the history of the Plaza of The Americas in terms of how it
got its name or just tell me briefly what are of the Plaza
did you find out or did you become oriented with when you
first came to University of Florida?
C: When I came to University of Florida I entered directly into
the Archeological Field School, in St. Augustine so I never
had any formal introduction or orientation to the University
or to the campus or to my department. My orientation was
mostly informal through my fellow field school students.
What they told me about the Plaza was first that it was
specifically a free-speech zone which I found odd because
the entire campus should be, being that it is state funded.
Also that it was named the Plaza of The Americas. Why it
was I did not know, they did not tell me. Why it is, I
cannot really say. It does not reflect much of the Americas
if one thinks in terms of the North and South America
W: Your field work mainly is in Latin America, is that correct?
C: That is correct, I am studying the Spanish colonies of the
Caribbean. Maybe this will make it clear in terms of the
way I see the Plaza. The road that connects the airport and
the city of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic is
called the Avenue of The Americas. Along the Avenue of The
Americas are plaques that represent the flags of every
single country in this hemisphere. So it is quite clear
that the structurists of the Avenue of The Americas have
made an effort to show that the avenue actually represents
all of the Americas. I come here and Plaza of The Americas
is American in name only if one talks about Americas in the
larger hemispheric sense.
W: You have never witnessed, in the two years that you have
been here, any type of activity that would reflect something
that would be in keeping with representing various people
from the Americas?
C: No, I cannot say that I have.
W: You also know that during the sixties and seventies, the
Plaza of The Americas was the location of political activity
and you mentioned something briefly earlier. Have you
witnessed or participated in any rally or any political
activity since you have been here at the University of
C: Student political activity on the Plaza?
C: The one event that I witnessed, I did not participate in
because I was actually hanging-out inside of Grinter Hall
was some speeches given by some, I cannot remember the title
of the party, but a recently formed student party whose
platform was to give money back to the students. They had
set-up on the Plaza of The Americas and each of the
candidates were giving speeches in the days before the
recent student elections. Outside of that, I would not say
I have seen any explicit political activity.
W: At that rally, would you say that it was representative of
all the students at the University of Florida, was it more
diverse than you had previously noticed on the Plaza?
C: The speechmakers were more diverse, the audience was non-
W: What does that mean?
C: Nobody was listening.
W: So people were just there.
C: It was the regular activities, people either passing through
the Plaza on the way to the library or to the intersection
of 13th Street and University Avenue, or the usual crowd
W: You, yourself, did not really stay, you just went through
and saw this activity?
C: I did not go through I was watching for a little while from
a distance, from the lawn that is directly east of Grinter
W: You mentioned hanging-out. A part of the survey is to
really understand where and how and why people hang-out at
various locations. You mentioned "hanging-out" in front of
Grinter, is that a location where graduate students hang-out
or would you say in front of Turlington, that area? Where
particularly do you hang-out on campus?
C: To the question of where do I hang-out, I usually hang-out
either in the museum or the Latin American collection of the
library. I could not say that I spend time sitting around
at the common locations where students gather outside.
W: Where are those common locations according to your
C: As far as I could tell the Plaza of The Americas and the
Plaza that is between Turlington and The Marston Science
Library computer center complex.
W: You would consider that area an extension of the Plaza?
W: You just said the plaza in between Turlington and the
Science Library, so I am just trying to get some
clarification here. What would you call that area, what
have you heard that area be referred to?
C: I would call it the Turlington Plaza and I have also heard
it referred to as the Set.
W: The Set, I do not know if you are familiar with this, is a
term that typically African-Americans have named it. Has an
African-American told you that or referred to it as the Set
that told you that?
C: One of my fellow Archeology graduate students referred to
that area as the set. Around Valentine's Day when he and
other African-American males are handing out flowers to
African- American females.
W: He said we will be doing this on the Set?
C: They have done it on the Set.
W: Prior to that conversation, did you know if he had said,
hey Jeremy, meet me at the Set...
C: I would not have known.
W: Can you describe to me just from your observation what type
of students generally congregate on the Set?
C: On the Set?
W: Or in the Turlington Area?
C: No, you can call it the Set, I have no problem with that.
The Set is more representative of being the plaza of the
Americas than the actual Plaza of The Americas. You know
what I mean?
W: No, what do you mean?
C: Let's use a crude identifier language.
C: On the Plaza of The Americas in front of the library, I only
here English. On the Set, I have heard English, Spanish,
Caribbean Creole English, Patua.
W: Any Asian students?
C: No, I have not heard them speaking in languages that were
W: Are they representative on the Set, though?
C: Yes, they are. Pakistanis, Indians and East Asians too.
W: Tell me more about the physical layout of the Set. I was
informed by one of my interviews that there is something
called the Rock and she referred to it as, Hey meet me at
C: Is that the potato?
W: Is that what you would call it?
C: I do not know. There is that potato looking, rock looking,
statue, sculpture that has a bench circling it where
W: Right, they call that the Rock?
C: That is the Rock?
W: I know that, being a graduate student, you may not be privy
to the actual geographic location terms of where to hang-out
because we, generally, do not have that much time, but would
you just describe to me what you have seen in that area
since you would consider that more of a Plaza of The
Americas even though you have said you do not think it is a
physical extension of the Plaza?
C: No, I do not understand how it would be a physical extension
of the Plaza in front of the library.
C: In terms of one plaza being an extension of the other, I
would say that is true if you are actually moving. For
example, moving from Anderson Hall to the HUB. Obviously
the two plazas are connected. In terms of the way the
students interact and the actual groups of students who
interact at the two places, it is totally distinct groups
and the two do not mix.
W: They do not mix? Why?
C: I do not know.
W: You are saying that they are segregated?
C: Segregated is a term you could use, yes.
W: What other term could you use?
C: Another term that could be used is autonomous. Like groups
associating with like groups.
W: It is really problematic, maybe, to use the term Plaza of
The Americas which is supposed to be representative of
diverse atmospheres? Is that what you are saying?
C: There is various reasons or various justifications for
maintaining the name Plaza of The Americas. You explained
to me the history of the creation of the Plaza in terms of
the planting of the trees from different countries and the
plaques, so, yes, there was a past historical process which
made this the Plaza of The Americas. Does it continue to be
a plaza of the Americas, does it continue to represent all
of the Americas or does it try to represent all of the
different American students on this campus and when I say
American I do not mean particularly the U.S.? No. In terms
of the current process of its maintenance and its
reproduction as a Plaza of The Americas, it has nothing to
do with it.
W: You said you have noticed or you have heard more languages
on the Set, but I have come to find out that the Set in
itself is also segregated. Have you observed that?
C: Definitely. For example you talked about the Rock. The
Rock is problematic so let me move away from the Rock into
that short brick wall that is on the east side. That is
where a lot of the Sorority and Fraternity groups set up
their tables for penny voting and other weekend planning
activities and that is a definite area.
W: Is that a white or a black area?
C: That is a white thing.
W: O.K. What is a white thing?
C: I mean it is a white thing in that the majority of those
people are white and those folks never set their tables up
in areas that have come to be, perhaps not explicitly but
implicitly, spaces occupied and used by people of color on
W: You have noticed this just be happenstance or as an
archeologist/anthropologist you just looked at the different
C: I would hope that my Anthropological training is not the
reason why I have noticed this. It seems pretty obvious to
me. I would hope that when I was in high school, I would
have been cognizant of this. For me it is pretty clear,
there is different groups, you could call them ethnic or
racial groups and they are represented by different parts of
W: I am trying to get this term down.
C: Which term?
C: When I just said Plaza I am referring to what you have
referred to as the Set and we have discussed this.
W: What is the Plaza to you? Let us start with that terminology
first of all because you have also said, previously that the
Plaza of The Americas and plaza at Turlington? What is a
C: A plaza for me would be an urban public space constructed
for the purposes of public activities.
W: Such as speakers, music?
C: Speakers, music, merchants, performers, "a pasear," which is
people going out for strolls and the formal and informal
public activities whatever kind. It is a lot different
because this is a university campus but I think the general
idea is maintained. Quads in the North East I would
W: Let me do a comparison here. Before coming to the
University of Florida, I believe you went to Amhurst.
C: That is right.
W: Can you tell me were the quads or plazas at Amhurst any more
diverse or any more politically conscious? What would be
the comparison between a quad at Amhurst and the Plaza or
the Set or the Rock at the University of Florida?
C: It is a difficult comparison because of the weather. The
quads or the open spaces at Amhurst have very little time
during the school year in which they are occupied because it
is too damn cold. You have to look to internal spaces
within buildings, the dining hall, the campus center, the
student union. Were they more diverse? Yes. Was there
segregation? Yes. Was there more political activity at
these places? Yes, definitely. In part because the dining
hall at Amhurst College to particulars of the
college I attended had 1,600 people with specific dinner
hours so that everybody is in the same place at the same
time so it is very conducive to social and political
W: I asked that because I wanted to get somewhat of a handle on
how you came to the University of Florida coming from the
north and coming down as a yankee to the south. I was
trying to get a feel for how you would view this place.
C: I am from California.
W: That is right, sorry. You are a Californian. I will
abstract that Yankee comment. I am more interested in how
people who are not from Florida come here and view the place
and view the social process. I am trying to get a handle on
how one would decide to either hang-out at the Plaza of The
Americas or hang-out at the Set or hang-out at other
locations on the campus. How did you come to make a
decision on, if you had any spare time to socialize, where
would that be and why on campus?
C: Right. The places that I have socialized have been in the
museum where I work and where my advisor works and where
some of my fellow students are and so that is a particular
archeologist context. I frequent that museum and talk down
there. Grinter Hall would be another place just because it
has a concentration of people who are interested in the same
things that I am interested in particular, Latin American
and the Caribbean.
W: You said you spend some time in the Latin American library
so you often have to pass the Plaza of The Americas to get
to Library East, is that right, where the Latin American
C: Now, the Latin American collection is in Marston Science
Library. Until January it was in Library East, so I would
have to often pass through the Plaza of The Americas to get
W: I have been told that at night women here at the University
of Florida do not feel comfortable walking past there
because of a history of rape and muggings and robbery. Have
you heard of any of that type of activity while you have
been here at the University of Florida?
C: No, I have not.
W: Have you felt uncomfortable or endangered by walking by the
Plaza at night?
C: The Plaza of The Americas at night?
C: No, I have not. In terms of being uncomfortable, the only
times I have been uncomfortable in the public spaces has
been when there have been concentrations of police officers
and that has always been on the Plaza in front of
W: Why were they there? Describe that.
C: I was not sure but off-hand I have noticed that officers
have shown their presence in greater numbers and with
greater frequency in that area than they do at the Plaza of
The Americas during the day at night they have stopping and
getting out of their vehicles.
W: Do you have any idea or any reason why they would be more
representative on the Set than they would be...
C: I have my prejudices, yes.
W: What would they be?
C: There is a lot of black folk on the Set. Particularly when
the black folk on the Set are doing black folk activities,
cops show up.
W: In greater numbers than they would be at the Plaza of The
C: In greater numbers than there would be at the Plaza of The
Americas or if for example, one of the black frats are doing
the step show on the Set.
W: That is a good observation. I, myself, have not picked up
on that. I have noticed some policemen on the Plaza of The
Americas. Like I said, recently, some students complained
that the evangelists were "harassing" them. I put "harass"
in quotes because I do not know if they were grabbing them
and making them repent or I do not know what they were
doing. There is a general consensus that if black people on
any campus tend to congregate together, the university
police are generally asked to monitor the activities and see
what is going on. I have not seen the presence of a large
group of people on the Plaza of The Americas, but you say
that this is racially motivated?
C: I would say it is racially motivated. Cops could probably
make an argument in response in terms of safety or the
movement of people. The plaza in front of Turlington, the
Set, is a central location. In the mid-moments of the
school day, there are lots of students passing through
during the changes in classes so they could probably make an
argument that just the massive people there, black, white,
Asian, Latin, they would have to boost their presence, but i
do not know.
W: Do you have any recommendations for example, you said at
Amhurst College the students were a bit more political than
the students here at the University of Florida. What type
of recommendation or some type of activity or initiative do
you think would be instructive in informing students to
observe the kind of things you observed about the
segregation in the mall, the different types of people on
the Plaza of The Americas? Is there anything that we could
do as concerned scholars about the blatant continuation of
segregation on predominantly white campuses? Is there
anything that you could think of that would bring a broader
awareness of the issue or is it just the way it is?
C: Just the way it is? I hope not but I think we have to look
at the reasons why the people behave in the ways they do.
Would the Pakistani female students who hang-out at the
upper parts of the Set want any change in the way they act
during the day and the way they congregate?
W: How do you know for a fact that they are Pakistanis and
where specifically are minorities? Can you give me a racial
diagram of where the various groups are because that is new.
I did not even know that there was specific Pakistani?
C: The Rock seems to have sometimes a diversity of students who
usually meet there and then move on, usually undergraduate I
W: That is just a holding spot that could just be a
circumstance of just being there that it is not consciously
diverse? It is just a location that happens to be.
C: It is definitely a lot more consciously diverse and the
people who meet there I do not think I could argue who meet
there and one of their conscious objectives is to meet
people of other cultures or other ethnicities at that
particular place. You have the Rock, you have got that row
of frat boys and sorority girls, the African-Americans, I
wish I could diagram it, it would be easier. The African-
Americans are along the southern side of the open space, if
you are following. As you move up the stairs towards the
computer center and the library, you get East Asian
students, Indian and Pakistani students and then sometimes I
have seen some kids from the English speaking Caribbean
islands up in the upper area.
W: There is a black segregated part as well you have African-
Americans and you have African-Caribbeans?
C: The African-Caribbeans move in and out of the African-
W: How have you come to observe this?
W: You listen?
C: Yes, from the accents and from the language.
W: Why is it that you are interested in this? How have you
come to observe it?
C: Why am I interested in this? I do not know.
W: Your observation is probably the most diverse in terms of a
clear observation and as you described this area I am
looking at the plaza and I can actually see it. I can see
it in my head. I am just curious as to why it is that you
have made this observation?
C: Perhaps it is from my experience in the Caribbean. Where
the Caribbean is so amazingly diversified place.
W: So you are drawn to that?
C: Yes, I am drawn to that.
W: Let us say that the Hare Krishnas came to the Set, would you
be more apt to try their food there in a more diverse
C: No, because I cannot say that I am trying the cultural
interactions of the students that hang-out there. I am
W: You are not an active participant?
C: I am an active participant in the manner that everyone who
moves through those public spaces is a participant, but I
could not identify myself with one of the groups that
frequently meets and spends time there.
W: Where are the regular white people, I mean the non-Greek,
you said frat boy and frat girl? You specifically said the
African-American, you said the Asian and the Pakistanis, but
I do not know where the non-Greek person is?
C: The non-affiliated?
C: I do not know.
W: They are just in the mix somewhere.
C: Maybe they recognize, not consciously or in some way, but
the Set is just not big enough. I am not sure. Also,
because the Plaza of The Americas has been established by
the people who hang-out there as a space for those people
and because those groups who hang-out on the Set have done
the same for themselves, they have claimed the space,
squatter's rights so to speak, perhaps other students say I
cannot hang where the Alpha Phi Alphas hang, they would not
want it, I would not want it.
W: What is an Alpha Phi Alpha?
C: A member of a black fraternity.
W: You really should have chosen Kappa Alpha Xi because the
Alpha Phi Alpha is my direct rival.
C: Sorry, I say Alpha Phi Alpha, not because I have any
allegiance to either one, but they are more vocal. I have
heard them here more than I have heard anybody else.
W: I would say maybe on this campus.
C: That is what I mean.
W: Generally across the nation, I would not agree with that.
C: I went to Amhurst College and we had no fraternities so this
is my first experience with a university that has strong
fraternities and sororities, black, white, latino.
W: I am curious now for you to turn your anthropological eye on
to the Plaza so that I can get a kind of a more descriptive
eye on what you see at the Plaza.
C: What do you want?
W: What is it that you see? You made the observation on the
Set. You said some of the people there but when you stop
and listen to the evangelists, what type of students do you
see engaging in that type of activity?
C: The evangelists are interesting because when the evangelists
come and when they draw a big crowd, the crowd is, at times,
racially or ethnically diverse because they are people who
are passing through. I would consider myself one of those
people passing through. I have seen the Asian students,
African-American students stop and listen so perhaps the
evangelists are a diversifying element on the Plaza of The
Americas. Take the evangelists away and it is interesting
because it is more of a park in a United States sense. A
very white park in terms of people bringing their dogs,
playing frisbee, that for example, is something that would
not be done on an urban plaza in, for example, Santo Domingo
in the Dominican Republic.
W: You are saying it is more culturally. You would not say
that in Santo Domingo you would see people playing frisbee
and letting their dogs run around?
C: Not on a plaza, no.
W: Where would you see that?
C: That would be at a park, I guess. It would not be in a
central location within the urban environment if we are
calling the University of Florida campus an urban
W: What do you think about the Plaza, then as this political
haven? If the evangelists can stir up diversity, and their
have been some rallies there, if you wanted to bring to the
attention something to the general student population, would
you go to the Plaza, get a permit. You, yourself, would you
consider that to be a location where you would be able to
set up a forum?
C: No, I would try to do a public activity in front of
Turlington. I would do it at the Set.
W: Given the history and knowing the history of the Plaza of
The Americas, you would still go to the Set?
C: The history of the Plaza of The Americas as far as I can
tell is that its role as such a place is fading fast. Just
in terms of access to people and different types of people.
I think the Set is a more efficient position to establish
oneself if one wants to speak loudly and publicly, just in
terms of its physical location in relation to the different
centers and buildings that students and professors have to
get to on campus. The Set is more central.
W: The Plaza is just a place where some white students could
get a tan if they wanted to if it is a good hot day. It is
a place to get a free meal, to hang-out and buy some beads.
You alluded earlier that drug sales are there but yet you
have not, yourself, seen it. Keeping with the political
activity, you would not say it is the political hub of the
university right now? That is your observation.
C: I would call it a political center, because the folks
hanging-out there hang-out there because they want to hang-
out there. It is quite an expression of their political
position in terms of how they want to interact with other
students with the university and in the public at large. So
it is a political place. Is it the best political position
to try and reach either a majority of the student population
at the University or other various representative groups
within the student population? No.
W: You worked, like you said earlier, in Latin America. Do you
know any Latin American graduate students here at the
University of Florida?
W: Do they know any of the history of the Plaza of The
C: I could not tell you. I do know that they do not hang-out
there. They hang-out at Grinter. They hang-out on that
lawn just outside of Grinter.
W: So that is a general Latin American, graduate hang-out?
C: I would not go so far as to label it an official hang-out.
For example, if a Latin American graduate student who works
and studies in Grinter Hall wanted to go outside and either
talk with someone or just hang-out, they would not stray
across the street onto the Plaza of The Americas. They
would go out to that lawn. Maybe it is just a very
materialists explanation that it is closer and we just do
not have to go out very far to find grass and there are
similar people in that area.
W: Jeremy, are there any other things that you would like to
add that we have not discussed so far?
C: I never responded to the question of what types of remedies
or solutions or ways of dealing with this problem are. In
terms of solutions, I do not know what is to be done. I see
that there are, I guess you could call them, grass roots
efforts going on right now, I would say, on the Set. For
example, on the Set, when the black fraternities and
sororities perform it does draw a crowd, it does break down
those small groups that are spread across the Set. A couple
of days ago there was a performance by some African drumming
group, I did not know who they were, there was a big crowd.
W: Yes, I saw that. I was there.
C: Those are the kinds of things that I like better than an
official move on the part of the University, so perhaps
maybe the students are moving in a positive direction on
their own. Does that integrate the Plaza and the Set? I do
not know if I could say, with conviction, that the people
who hang around at the Plaza do not move around, but that is
W: Are there any initiatives that you would see that would
benefit or move people to understand that there really is
something valid in socializing with someone outside their
immediate group? Are you saying that just let this
naturally occur with student activities?
C: What I see sometimes going on in the Set, is that the actual
cultural or ethnic groups that congregate there, seem to be
at times at least, moving in a direction of exploring each
others different groups. That does not mean that the groups
all have to meld into one but I do see a time of greater
interaction between different groups of people. It is
unfortunate that the situation is so implicit or unstated in
terms of people arriving here and they are basically forced
into a certain pattern of behavior or pattern of spacial
distribution of themselves.
W: You are saying of a young freshman, black person, comes to
the University of Florida, there is an implicit kind of
geographic location that he or she will know to hang-out in
this particular area as opposed to just going to the Plaza
of The Americas and hanging-out and singing Kum Baya with
the guitar players? They know that that is not their place?
C: Yes, for example, I wonder about the hypothetical, young
African-American hippie who likes grass and likes trees and
comes to this campus.
W: From California.
C: Yes, from Berkeley. Would that person feel comfortable on
the Plaza of The Americas? I do not know. How would the
people on the Plaza of The Americas treat that person, as a
fellow nature lover or as a black hippie icon?
W: I am really impressed with your usage of the word hippie. I
was not aware that that word was still circulating in our
lexicon. I thought it was some kind of revisited or
revisioned word, but is it used?
C: I do not know. I use it because I think it is funny and
probably the folks that hang-out on the Plaza who consider
themselves hippies in the sixties would probably feel
comfortable with the term. The young folk who hang out on
the Plaza, probably do not. I do not care. I like it
because it amuses me.
W: Do they amuse you?
C: Do they amuse me? To a certain extent yes. I would have to
W: I have to say thank you for your geographical insights as in
anthropology. I have gotten more of a geographical location
and a sense of identity from this interview. Jeremy, can
you tell me what your plans are after getting your masters
degree here in Archeology, is it Historical Archeology?
C: It is Historical Archeology.
W: What do you plan on doing afterwards? When will you get
C: Hopefully, I will have that degree by the end of the Fall
semester of this year and I will apply to graduate programs,
programs in History here and elsewhere and then
make a decision either on continuing for a PhD in the
Anthropology here or continuing for a PhD in history here or
going somewhere else to do it or a PhD in Latin American
History or some other program.
W: I have just one brief recommendation that the University of
Texas in Austin has a fantastic program in Latin American
history, it is, as you well know, my alma mater.
W: I am continuing with my interview of students at the
University of Florida on the Plaza of The Americas project
for the Oral History program at the University of Florida.
Today is April 14, 1996 and I am interviewing Bernard Scott
Lucious. The interview is taking place at Diamond Village,
building 304, apartment 12 in Gainesville, Florida. Scott,
would you please state your full name and then spell your
Bernard Scott Lucious.
Thank you. Scott, what are you studying here at the
University of Florida?
I am pursuing my doctoral degree in English.
How long have you been a student here at UF?
I entered into the Summer B semester in June of 1994. SO
Are you originally from Florida?
No, I moved here from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania though I was
born in Thailand.
Thailand is quite a distance from Pittsburgh.
My father was in the military, so I lived sort or a military
brat type of life and we travelled all over. I went to
high school in Wheeling, West Virginia and later went to
Pittsburgh to pursue my undergraduate degree from Carnegie-
Mellon University and continued on to study at the masters
level at Ducan University.
What brought you to the University of Florida?
A number of factors actually. One of my professors at
Carnegie-Mellon is a graduate of the English program here at
the University of Florida also my mother has relocated to
Orlando, Florida. In addition to those factors, the program
itself was appealing to me and this was the program that was
ideal for my graduate studies.
W: You have enjoyed your stay here at the University of Florida
L: I would say I have. I had to get used to living in a small
town such as Gainesville but nonetheless, the program, the
department, the University has been ideal for me.
W: You have become a Gator, so to speak?
L: A reluctant Gator.
W: Why reluctant?
L: Although I watch some of the Gator football games on T.V., I
have not been very much a supporter in terms of
participating in the games and so forth.
W: I have explained to you briefly, the history of the Plaza of
The Americas and I would like for you to just tell me, what
are your immediate thoughts when you think of entering the
Plaza of The Americas?
L: The Plaza of The Americas projects an image of a modern-day
Woodstock at the University of Florida for me. That is what
comes to mind. When I walk through the Plaza itself, either
to go to Library West or to Matherly Hall or Anderson Hall,
where I teach and also have office space as a T.A. here at
the University of Florida, I often see different types of
groups of students. I see, either, students who are playing
hackysack or students who are observing a speaker about
issues of Christianity. I see, often, students supporting
the Hare Krishna meals and I also see students sun bathing
or just having some good time with other friends.
W: Out of all of those observations, do you see diversity at
all? You mentioned a lot of different groups of people,
what would be the predominant race of the people whom you
L: My response to that would be two-fold. To answer your
question exactly in terms of the racial composition, it is
not as racially diverse as one would imagine such a setting,
but in terms of diversity, what comes to mind is moreso the
religious spiritual/political type diversity because of my
reference to Christianity, Hare Krishna and sort of the
nouveau Woodstock-type culture that I see there, so in that
sense, it is somewhat diverse in terms of religious and
spiritual views, but in terms of racial or ethnic diversity,
I am not sure that I would describe it as racially or
W: What are the predominant congregation of people?
L: Primarily, European American. Very few people of color so
to speak, African-American, Latino-American or Asian-
American. Usually, the African-American, Native-American as
well as Latino-American and Asian-Americans are among those
to pass through that area, the observers of this particular
W: So you have never, yourself, witnessed a racial composition
that would be described as a diverse setting on the Plaza of
The Americas in the two years that you have been here?
L: I would say, no, I have not with the exception of a Latino
or a Chicano-American festival that was taking place on the
Plaza. However, as I looked toward the area where the
festival was taking place, I still saw very little in terms
of the Latin-American, Chicano student presence.
W: You mentioned this Woodstock type of description. Could you
tell me? I am a child of the sixties and I know of
Woodstock, but could you be more specific in breaking down
what you mean by Woodstock type of atmosphere?
L: The Woodstock culture or the images from Woodstock as one
speaking from having grown up during the seventies, hippie
type attire, very free-love type of attitude, also not only
European American but also some African-American
participants in the Woodstock and its representation of
peace, unity, love, so to speak. That is what comes to mind
when I think of Woodstock and what it stood for. It seems
as though the young people who are often spending most of
their time throughout the Plaza of The Americas seem to
project that type of image.
W: Are all of these people, from your own observation, students
here at the University of Florida or would you consider them
to be outside of the University community?
L: At first it is really hard to determine whether or not the
students are University of Florida students, but having
spoken firsthand with one of the students, I realized that
many of them were not University of Florida students. I
happened to have conducted class discursion once on an area
of the Plaza of The Americas and learned that the students
who were also occupying the same area were not University of
W: What class do you teach?
L: I teach ENC 1102. English 1102 is the freshmen introductory
course to writing.
W: Why did you choose the Plaza of The Americas as a location
for your class?
L: on this particular day it was really nice outdoors and I
decided to conduct my class discussion on Maya Angeloux's
poem on The Morning which she presented during the
Clinton inauguration. I asked my students where they would
like to conduct this class discussion and most of the
students mentioned the Plaza of The Americas, so we carried
W: Did you know the formal name of the Plaza of The Americas?
If someone said, hey, let us go to the Plaza of The
Americas, would you have known where that place was?
L: To be honest I am awfully confused about the whereabouts of
the Plaza of The Americas. I have heard of it mentioned
several times, but I never had taken notice of exactly
where it was. At this point, I realize exactly where it
was. That it was the area in front of Library West, but
often I never would take notice of exactly where this area
W: You, yourself, personally, have never participated in
listening to some of the evangelists talk or have you
partaken of the food of the Hare Krishna? You look like a
healthy, to-be professor type, do you stop off and share the
food of the Hare Krishna?
L: Actually, I am not very active or supportive of the
activities that take place at the Plaza of The Americas. I
have seen maybe students or faculty members participate with
the Hare Krishna meals and I have also watched students
observe the speakers on issues of Christianity and religion,
but I, myself, have never partaken in any of these
activities. Basically, I am just walking by, that is about
W: You have noticed, obviously, with very nice observational
skills the community at the Plaza of The Americas and you
talked about the lack of African-American students. Can you
tell me where you would say the major congregational area
for African-American students or Latino students or Asian
students is on campus?
L: Without a doubt, the area known as the Set, the area between
Turlington and the computer science building is the area
where most of the African-American students interact with
one another. Often you will find many African-American
students, primarily undergraduate students, interacting and
conversing with their colleagues. At times you will see
African-American sororities and fraternities, presenting
various bits of information about their activities and so
forth. So the Set is where most of the African-American
students can be seem interacting. In terms of Latino-
American and Asian-American students, often you will find
many of the students walking through the Plaza and at times,
meeting on the Set, but I do not know that that is an area
that many of these students frequent like the African-
American students themselves.
W: Where did the term the Set come from and as you learned
about the name for the Plaza of The Americas, how did you
come to know the term the Set because that is in itself an
African-American description because often white, American
students here at the University of Florida have not known in
the interviews that I have conducted, have not known of it
as the Set? Do you have any idea why it is called the Set
or how you came to know it as the Set?
L: During my orientation to the University of Florida in the
Summer of 1994, I was made familiar with the term the Set
from other African-American graduate students who were
informing me of the different settings as you could say on
campus and it was clear that, as I mentioned earlier, most
of the African-American students interacted on the Set so
the answer, basically is from other African-American
W: So it is an informal type of orientation?
W: Did they at any time, in your informal orientation, say to
you that the Plaza of The Americas is another area where
students of African descent or Latino descent would
L: Never was there any reference to the Plaza of The Americas
as also an area where the African-American students would
W: Would you describe the Set as an extension of the Plaza of
L: It would not seem appropriate to suggest that the Set was an
extension only because it seems to represent two different
social spheres as I mentioned African-American students
interacting on the Set as well as primarily European-
American students interacting throughout the Plaza of The
Americas. It does not seem to connect in any way.
W: Why is that?
L: I am not sure. I have no idea why.
W: I would hate to use the word segregation but I am going to
go on in that direction. Why do you think that the students
have chosen, both formally and informally, to segregate
themselves or would you even say that the Plaza of The
Americas and the Set or the area in Turlington, there is
another area called the Rock, there is another area called
the Wall? Have you noticed that these areas could be
described as segregated?
L: I would suggest that it is apparent and I have noticed that
before. I have also raised the same question to my students
in my course and I asked them to observe the different
groups or cultures on campus to determine why it is they
feel that the different communities are so segregated.
First, are they and secondly why so. Most of the students
have observed also the same segregation but were not sure
how to respond to the reasons for the continued segregation
of the different groups. It is really apparent, but in
terms of why, it is uncertain.
W: You are also, not only of African-American descent but also
of Thailand descent. Can you tell me where the Asian
students on campus are also normally congregated? Have you
L: I do see several groups of Asian students as I am walking
throughout the campus, but I really cannot locate where the
students interact on a normal basis. I do see, as I say,
Latino-American students, but aside from the Set where
African-American student primarily interact as well as the
Plaza of The Americas where most the European-American
students interact, the Latino-American, Asian-American or
even Native-American students seem to just exist in the
cursory of these two areas. It is hard to locate their
W: Have you also noticed that the Set in itself is segregated?
Have you happened to see that?
L: Actually, within the Set itself, there is definitely a
degree of segregation in the sense that while many of the
African-American students will socialize and interact in the
area closest to the computer science building, closest to
that particular library by that building, the students who
are representing various social organizations will often
have booths out there in the Set but most of these students
will set up closest to Turlington by the Wall closest to
Turlington where the newspapers are. That area closest to
Turlington is where the non-African-American students can be
W: Non-African-American meaning?
L: White students, European-American students, Asian students,
W: What about the area around the Rock? Are you familiar with
the term the Rock?
L: I am not familiar with the area.
W: One of my interviewers said it is a potato-like shaped thing
with benches around. An undergraduate informed me that that
is called the Rock and if one were to say hey Scott please
meet me by the Rock, in fact I saw you on the Set and that
is why I decided to interview you because you were sitting
on the rock. Do you remember?
L: Yes, I remember.
W: Would you say that area is more integrated naturally or are
you aware of its racial composition?
L: That area is more integrated or diverse as compared to the
other area of the Set. The Rock area which we are speaking
of is an area that is pretty popular among graduate students
especially graduate students who study in Turlington. In
terms of whether or not it is somewhat integrated, yes it is
as compared to the other area of the Set.
W: I explained to you the history of the Plaza of The Americas
and basically told you that the political activities that
took place in the sixties and seventies were obviously
vastly different from what is going on today. Do you think,
though, that the Plaza is still a place for political
activity? Have you noticed or participated in any
activities that would be considered political?
L: I would suggest that the Plaza as well as the Set are both
areas in which students seem to conduct various political
activities. I mentioned both in response to your question
because on one hand I mentioned that the Plaza of The
Americas is an area where mostly religious and spiritual
issues are confronted and projected. At the same time, from
my observation I see that on the Set in terms of political
and civic issues, particularly African-American sororities
and fraternities, I see that as an area in which these
political activities are often taking place. So, I see
W: Where do you hang-out on campus when you have time?
L: I seldom hang-out on campus, but when I have time, usually
in the Rock area where you mentioned that you saw me
interacting with other students. I would continue to add
that the reason I do like to hang-out by the Rock area, so
to speak, is because of the interaction between graduate and
undergraduate students as well as interaction of various
ethnic groups. That is something that interests me and I
often am just watching the different groups of students
W: I would like to go back to the Plaza of The Americas again.
That is a place where you mentioned earlier where some
people could hang-out and get some sun, play frisbee, play
hackeysack, get a free meal. Would you say that the people
there are unaware of the fact that the Plaza is not diverse
in terms of its racial composition? You have observed the
people, is there a sense that this is a territorial turf in
like the Set is a territorial turf where people just do not
mix because that is just not where you go? Is there a sense
of that here or is it very informal and very implicit in its
regional location of where the various races hang-out?
L: I am sure that students who interact in the Plaza of The
Americas area are aware of their ethnocentrism as you could
say as well as students who interact on the Set, but in
terms of any questioning of the reasons why there is little
interaction or there is a lack of consideration among
different groups, I am not sure. That is something that is
on their mind.
W: Are there any ways that you could think of where maybe the
university or maybe an article in the Alligator or maybe
someone could bring it to the attention of the larger
population here at the University of Florida that the Plaza
of The Americas is not the hub of a diverse setting of
political consciousness nor is the Set. The Set is diverse
but it is not a political hub where people come together
consciously. Do you have any recommendations or suggestions
as to how we could get students to start to look at these
issues because as you know, in many universities the
dismantlization of affirmative action is starting to take
place and there does not seem to be a political climate
where people are concerned with the richness of why it is
important to be concerned about each other's culture? Do
you have any suggestions on how the students would react or
how to approach this issue to get people to just observe the
L: Perhaps the bast thing to do in terms of trying to raise
consciousness among the students, both the students who
interact at the Set as well as the Plaza, is that you
actually conduct some sort of informational type programming
within the area themselves, the Set and the Plaza of The
Americas. Some sort of, as you might say, diversity fest
could take place. The fest itself could take place on both
the Set as well as the Plaza of The Americas. That perhaps
would be the most striking forum which could raise the
awareness among the students of all who interact between
W: Is there anything that you would like to add that we have
not discussed in the interview concerning the Plaza of The
Americas and where students hang-out here at the University
L: I understand from your explanation, the history behind the
Plaza of The Americas, but from my experience here in the
last two years, I have not developed a strong sense of the
Plaza of The Americas as being a central part of the campus
where political activity and transformation should transpire
and it is very interesting that the Plaza of The Americas,
throughout the interview, seems to be made central to the
discussion. I would be interested in hearing the results of
a similar type of interview but perhaps of students in terms
of the Set. If the Set was made central to the interviewing
and to ask non-African-American students of their opinion of
the politics and the political activism that they observe on
the Set, that would be interesting.
W: Scott, can you tell me what are you going to do after you
finish your doctorate degree here at the University of
Florida? What are some of your plans after receiving your
L: My immediate goals include teaching at a university level,
perhaps in Florida although I am not limiting myself to
Florida. I also would like to write and conduct research in
terms of the areas of Asian-American, African-American
cultural studies. Beyond that I am not sure of what else I
would like to get into.
W: Thank you for agreeing to be a part of this project. You
are the last of my interviewees and I surely think that the
information that you have given me has given me a rounded
perspective of how to really look at the Plaza of The
Americas as well as the Set. You have stated earlier that
you did not think that the Set was an extension of the Plaza
and I just want to, I guess, have you say one last thing and
that is, if we were to somehow engineer a program to get
people to talk with each other, get people to explore each
others culture, how do you think we might go about doing
that? Just one simple idea.
L: That is a tough question. The only thing that comes to
mind, as I mentioned earlier, is some sort of public forum
for dialogue and conscious raising and that would be a
series of activities, whatever they might be, cultural,
intercultural type activities taking place in both areas.
W: You mentioned the diversity fest.
L: Right, something like that. Other than that, I do not know
of anything else aside from the apparent cultural
instruction and so forth, but that is something that
requires students to interact with the administration and
there is a whole dialogue that has to take place in terms of
the necessity for enforcing such teaching in the classrooms.
W: I asked that question because you have a very diverse
approach to teaching. In our pre-interview you talked about
the various aspects of diversity in your teaching and the
kind of things that you have exposed your students to.
Would you say that is a starting part?
L: Definitely, that is definitely a forum in which we can begin
to engage in such issues and I definitely do attempt to do
so in my own course even though the courses I have taught,
writing as well as literature, may not require conversations
on such issues as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class,
religion and so forth, but I use that particular forum to
raise such issues, to challenge the students to think about
their own opinions, their own politics on such issues. That
is definitely an ideal forum, unfortunately, I know that not
everyone places emphasis on such "multi-cultural" issues in
their courses but that is definitely an ideal forum because
it requires them to confront these issues in a serious
W: Scott, thank you so much for the interview and I hope that
maybe we can implement some of these ideas when we become
professors in the academy in the near future.
L: Thank you very much.