JACKSONVILLE, FLA. - A lot of folks have been asking why did the University of Florida (UF) changed its position on letting white nationalist Richard Spencer speak when they already denied him? We set out to verify.
We looked at UF's website, which answers frequently asked questions about the event, talked to UF's president Kent Fuchs and looked back through our reports over the last few months.
So, let's take a look at the timeline of how this all went down:
On August 16, the University denied Spencer's original request to speak on September 12, stating that there were security concerns. The Charlottesville, Virginia protests that turned deadly, happened just one month earlier. Spencer not only was a speaker at that event, but he also helped organize a rally there.
The next day on August 17, Spencer promised to pursue legal action against the University. UF President Fuchs sent out a statement saying they were prepared to defend their position in court.
On September 1, UF changed its stance on Spencer saying they would consider new dates to let the white nationalist speak on campus.
On September 26, Kyle Bristow tweeted that Spencer was confirmed to speak at UF on October 19.
The University confirmed on the October 6 that Spencer would be speaking on campus that day.
When interviewed Fuchs said, "anything we do that will portray him as being victim or portray him as being denied his constitutional first amendment right I believe actually supports his image that he wants to portray in the public press and around the nation."
So let's get back to the question: Why the change of heart?
"No one on campus invited him, no one is hosting him, no one's sponsoring him.” Fuchs said. “But we needed, by law, to allow him to come and rent our space because we have opened our space up to the public and he's part of the public."
The University says on its website: "UF's position regarding Richard Spencer has remained the same. As a state entity, UF must allow the free expression of speech. We cannot prohibit groups or individuals from speaking in our public forums except for limited exceptions, which include safety and security. Our decision to disallow the September event was based on specific threats and a date that fell soon after the Charlottesville event. Allowing Spencer to speak in October provided additional time to make significant security arrangements."
So we can verify that the University didn't change how it felt about the event, but needed to uphold the First Amendment since it is a public University.
"It's been surprising to many students that, that hate speech cannot be banned from a public university," Fuchs said. "The government, and we're considered to be the government, cannot censor speech, including hate speech."
If it was a private University it could have denied Spencer's request to speak without repercussions.
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