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White supremacist leader at center of Charlottesville events may come to UF

By Thomas C. Tobin
The Washington Post via AP
Alt-right leader and white supremacist Richard Spencer.

University of Florida president Kent Fuchs today sent out an email notifying students, faculty, parents and employees that white supremacist activist Richard Spencer, who sparked today's events in Charlottesville, Va., may be coming to speak in Gainesville on Sept. 12.

Fuchs said the school has been contacted by the National Policy Institute about reserving space on campus for an event that will feature Spencer as a speaker. He noted that the organization is not affiliated with UF or any student groups, but that, under university regulations, "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."

Referencing today's violence in Charlottesvillle, Fuchs said Spencer's presence on campus would be "deeply disturbing," but that, by law, the school could not discriminate against the National Policy Institute in considering its request. On its website, the group describes itself as "an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity and future of people of European descent in the United States and around the world."

In his email, sent out at 4:55 p.m. Saturday, Fuchs added: "I encourage our campus community to send a message of unity by not engaging with this group and giving them more media attention for their message of intolerance and hate."

Read the full text of Fuchs' letter:

Dear Campus Community,

The National Policy Institute has reached out to the university to reserve space for a speaking event featuring white nationalist and “alt-right” activist Richard Spencer on September 12.

This organization is unaffiliated with the university, and no student groups or other groups affiliated with the university are sponsoring this speech. This event is not finalized and it is still under discussion.

Per university regulation 2.004, 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.

UF administration, staff and campus police are developing a security plan for the potential event and are working with colleagues across the country who have had similar events on their campus.

For many in our community, including myself, this speaker’s presence would be deeply disturbing. What we’ve watched happen in Charlottesville, VA. in the last 24 hours, is deplorable.  I again denounce all statements and symbols of hate. The University of Florida is a community of learners, educators and scholars. We encourage open and honest dialogue, and we strive to build an inclusive environment where hate is not welcome.

While this speaker’s views do not align with our values as an institution, we must follow the law, upholding the First Amendment not to discriminate based on content and provide access to a public space.

Though we have a responsibility as a public university, we also have a vital duty to our students, faculty and staff to uphold our educational mission.

Instead of allowing hateful speech to tear us down, I urge our campus community to join together, respect one another and promote positive speech, while allowing for differing opinions. These types of groups want media attention. I encourage our campus community to send a message of unity by not engaging with this group and giving them more media attention for their message of intolerance and hate.

It is up to every student, faculty member, staff member, and myself to demonstrate our university values of respect and inclusion in all that we do. We have an opportunity to lead the way.

We will continue to keep you updated as more information develops through email and our information line: 1-866-UF-Facts.

Warm Regards,
W. Kent Fuchs
President
University of Florida

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