A Caring University

UF President Kent Fuchs cheers on UF at Fall Convocation in UF's Stephen C. O’Connell Center. "My goal is not just that we will be known as one of the world's very best universities, but also that we will be known as a university that cares about its people," he told freshmen and their family members.

A Caring University

Hello and welcome, Class of 2021!  I’ve been so eagerly waiting for you to arrive, and I’m so glad you’re now here!  A special shout out to new UF Online students!

I know this is an exciting time for you, and an emotional time for your parents, because I’ve been experiencing it firsthand. My wife, Linda, and I have been living in the west tower of Jennings Hall since Wednesday.

Linda, Vice President Dave Parrott, and I did our part yesterday to help some of you move in, as you can see in these photos.

Dave Parrott and Linda Fuchs pushing President Fuchs in a laundry cart.

My and Linda’s time in Jennings Hall this first week really reminds me of my own experience of moving into college in 1973.  However, this time my roommate is better looking!

I remember doing fine my first six weeks as a freshman.  College wasn’t like high school, and since no one was pushing me to keep up with my work, I enjoyed making friends and college life.

Then I took my first chemistry exam.  I’ll never forget my score: 47 out of 100. I was devastated, even though the professor, Dr. Bonk, generously curved the exam and gave me a “D.”

That experience taught me two lessons.  One, I needed to focus on my classes and my studies and not be too distracted.  Two, I couldn’t let a few bad grades weaken my commitment.  I had to understand that I might not always be at the top of the class – but with persistence and patience I could succeed.

Here at UF, you will have challenges and setbacks, but you will also, with persistence, have great success.

Another part of being new to college is meeting different people and learning to appreciate their talents and perspectives.  I’m proud that we have students from many diverse cultures and backgrounds at UF, all arriving with different interests and gifts.

I want you to know that you will encounter new and sometimes challenging ideas here – including ideas that you may find wrong or even offensive.  We are committed to the free and open exchange of ideas and civil discussion as key to your college education.

At the same time, we cannot allow violence to students or others on our campus. Because such violence was threatened, and following the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this week we denied a request to rent a public campus venue for an event with white-supremacist leader Richard Spencer.

I find the racist rhetoric of Mr. Spencer and white nationalism abhorrent and utterly counter to the values of our university and our nation. However, it was the likelihood of violence and potential injury, and not the words or ideas, which caused us to deny the request.

Part of being a great research university is balancing the constitutional protection of freedom of speech, including external speakers who come to UF with hate speech, with keeping our campus safe. 

Students, in addition to a university where you will receive an incredible education, I hope that you will also find UF to be a personal university. My goal is not just that we will be known as one of the world’s very best universities, but also that we will be known as a university that cares about its people. Starting with the president, please know that the administration, faculty and staff are here for you and care deeply about you.

When we aren’t living in Jennings Hall, Linda and I live in the Dasburg House here on campus. When you see Linda or me, please introduce yourself. I look forward to meeting you. My personal email is kent.fuchs@ufl.edu.

Students, again, I am so glad you are here with us at the University of Florida and so excited about the year ahead.

I wish you a challenging, thrilling and enlightening semester starting this very evening, when we all get hear from Jeanne Marie Laskas, author of the amazing book, Hidden America.  I look forward to joining all of you and your families again at commencement in 2021!

Thank you! It is Great to Be a Florida Gator!