Free Expression, Controversial?
UCF is a melting pot with a variety of people from different backgrounds and beliefs. No matter who you are, UCF makes sure that you feel comfortable expressing who you are. While this is great for most students, this certainly strikes up the issue of controversial speakers.
UCF applies something called the Campus Free Expression Act. This act is a law for public universities and colleges in Florida that allows these universities to allow visitors to freely speak in outside areas around campus. UCF has been a campus that has always promoted free speech by every person: an employee, a student, invited and uninvited speakers, controversial or not. As long as these visitors do not materially disrupt any scheduled or reserved activities on campus. This means they are not allowed to ruin another person’s expressive rights. The fact that this act prohibits visitors from materially disrupting other activities adds a bit of protection for UCF’s students and faculty.
Unfortunately, the worst part of this act is that people can engage in what some students, and their parents, believe is hate speech on campus. Hate speech is seen as “speech expressing generalized hatred of a particular group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, sexual expression, sex, age, or disability.” As long as speakers are not disruptive or violate the law, they are able to engage in this type of speech.
As a student going into my fourth year at UCF, I have seen this act in action. I have witnessed visitors express spiritual, religious, and political beliefs. Of course, hearing something you do not agree with can be unsettling, but I still feel safe on campus. During my second year on campus, I saw two men express their religious beliefs that many students did not agree with. They stirred up a huge crowd and many students felt uncomfortable and even unsafe. Luckily, UCF immediately took action and the campus police took care of the rest.
Students still have free speech rights and are still allowed to reserve outdoor areas on campus for event planning. However, they may need to compete for outdoor space and there will be stronger prohibitions taken place. Assigning these outdoor locations adds extra safety for students because the campus is still seen as the home for a lot of students. UCF does not permit speakers to speak outside of a classroom or disrupt any class. They also do not allow speakers to be violent or threaten others as this violates the law. Lastly, UCF does not allow speakers between 10 p.m.- 8 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12:00 a.m.- 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information on using your voice on campus.
Shelly Massre, UCF Intern
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