GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida says it has confirmed Oct. 19 for a speaking event featuring white nationalist Richard Spencer.
UF released a statement Thursday making the previously tentative date official. The school is charging the allowable costs of $10,564 for rent and security.
The university has repeatedly stated that it will not be affiliated with the event in any way, but as a public institution, UF is legally obligated to allow the expression of many viewpoints by external groups, such as Spencer’s National Policy Institute.
UF previously denied the group’s request to hold an event on Sept. 12, citing recent violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. UF President W. Kent Fuchs said at the time that the First Amendment doesn’t require risking imminent violence to students.
University of Florida officials estimate the total cost for safety and security among all agencies will exceed $500,000.
"This is a controversial speaker and there are very strong opinions on both sides," Janine Sikes, UF assistant Vice President of Public Affairs, says. "This organization wants the media attention. They want the protest."
Sikes says the University is asking the public to stay away from campus during Spencer's event. If people choose to visit campus, the university is working on alternative events focusing on diversity. Sikes says despite the high price for safety, but UF isn't willing to risk someone getting hurt.
As for the change in policy, Sikes says the University still opposes Spencer's agenda.
"We did not waver on that point. We made that decision because there was specific and direct threats against UF and Gainesville," Sikes says. "We are the marketplace of ideas. But that doesn't mean it is easy for this community or any community to accept and condone the racist rhetoric of this white nationalist group."
Part of the UF safety plan includes scheduling Spencer's speech for the afternoon of October 19th. The middle of the day was closed so nighttime darkness wouldn't be a factor for law enforcement.
Other Parts of the safety plan:
-Lawbreakers will be subject to immediate arrest and prosecution.
-Law enforcement has created a long list of prohibited items including torches mask and weapons of any kind.
-roads around the venue will be close to vehicle traffic limiting possible pedestrian risk.
-everyone attending the event including the media will go through metal detectors.
-The event will be ticketed and no tickets will be available on the day of the event. No one without a ticket will be allowed into the Phillips Center.