Is Free Expression Controversial?
UNF has definitely had its fair share of public speakers coming on campus and preaching to those who pass by. While it can be somewhat annoying, they normally refrain from any direct insults or attacks on a specific person or group of persons. This situation is still a delicate one, as UNF is a very forward-thinking and accepting campus and the people who come on campus to speak often hold very controversial or “old-fashioned” ideals, which can often lead to some discomfort or clashing views.
UNF, like all Florida public universities, 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. UNF has been a campus that has always promoted free speech by every person: an employee, a student, invited and uninvited speakers. 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 UNF’s students and faculty.
Because the University is a public campus, there are spaces that are designated “public areas”, where anybody can enter and speak regardless of whether or not they are actually affiliated with the school. The school has an obligation to honor these speakers’ first amendment rights, and therefore must allow them to peacefully demonstrate in these areas. However, they are bound by some rules. For information on UNF’s position and rules when it comes to Free Speech and Controversial Speakers, click here.
As you can see, these speakers are prohibited from directly targeting a specific passerby, as this would be harassment. Those who fail to comply with the regulations can be subject to removal from campus or even arrest. While the school must honor the rights and freedoms of those who wish to speak on campus, if your student has ever been personally attacked or harassed, this is something that can definitely be taken up with school administration.
I actually had to write an open letter to the president of UNF in regards to some school regulation and offer changes to that regulation. In the essay, I offered an optimal solution to add to this regulation, stating that students and faculty are to be informed of any appearances being made by speakers, and when and where they will be, so that those who wish to avoid these speakers can do so without hindering the speakers’ rights to free speech and expression.
Sarah Toth, UNF Intern
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