Just hours after white nationalists clashed with antifa members in Charlottesville, VA, it was announced that Richard Spencer, the President of National Policy Institute and one of America’s most well-known white nationalists, may be speaking at the University of Florida (UF) as soon as next month.
“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,” UF President Kent Fuchs wrote in a Facebook post and email which circulated on Saturday afternoon.
“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.”
Spencer is not involved with or linked to any campus group or entity but has a legal right to reserve campus space because UF is a public university.
The event is not finalized, as UF has yet to sign a contract or receive payment from the National Policy Institute. However, UF spokesperson Janine Sikes confirmed that paperwork for the National Policy Institute to book the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 12 should be finalized within a week.
Fuchs made it clear that Spencer’s views do not align with UF’s core values and that he is actively working with law enforcement to make sure students are safe from any raucous Spencer’s visit might cause.
“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,” Fuchs explained in his email that went out at 4:55 p.m. Saturday.
A statement by the UF Young Americans for Freedom reads in part, “To believe that other races are inferior is to believe that God makes mistakes. Our creator made all of us in his image and certainly makes no mistakes. To be conservative means to believe in equal rights and individual freedoms.”
Spencer was present at the “Unite the Right” rally at University of Virginia this weekend where he was seen screaming at law enforcement. He previously held a rally at University of Virginia in May, protesting plans to remove a Confederate monument. He also spoke at Texas A&M last December and at Auburn University in April, although the university attempted to cancel the event citing security concerns.
“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,” Fuchs said. “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.”
Just 24 hours after Fuch’s announcement, a Facebook event called “No Nazi at UF” has attracted close to five thousand people interested or participating.