In an email to the student body last week, University of Florida President Kent Fuchs expressed befuddlement at his recent discovery that the public university must allow free speech.
“If you are like me, I expect you are surprised and even shocked to learn that UF is required by law to allow Mr. Spencer to speak his racist views on our campus,” Fuchs wrote in a statement alerting students that Richard Spencer, a prominent white nationalist, will be visiting campus on October 19.
Spencer was originally scheduled to speak in September, and Fuchs initially defended the event under university regulation 2.004 which states that “non-university groups, organizations, and persons may rent space on campus, provided they cover rental expenses and security costs like all other third-party renters.” Several days later, however, Fuchs announced that the event would be cancelled due to safety concerns.
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After being threatened with a federal lawsuit, however, UF backed down and agreed to host Spencer in October, prompting Fuchs to implore the school community to simply deny Spencer the attention he seeks, rather than trying to shut down the speech.
“First, do not provide Mr. Spencer and his followers the spotlight they are seeking,” Fuchs instructed, assuring readers that “by shunning him and his followers we will block his attempt for further visibility.”
Simultaneously, though, he also said the school should “not let Mr. Spencer’s message of hate and racism go unchallenged,” urging students and faculty members to attend a series of events crafted in response to the controversy, which began with an October 11 panel titled, “A Conversation on the First Amendment.”
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During that conversation, UF Law Professor Kenneth Nunn declared himself a “First Amendment radical,” asserting that he doesn’t “think there is any such thing as free speech,” that “words can and do hurt,” and that UF should take action to “confront hate speech” beyond merely promoting a "marketplace of ideas."
Nunn also asserted that hateful speech can inflict “significant harms” on those targeted by it, including physical harms.
Read more: https://www.campusreform.org/?ID=9975