Free Expression, Controversial?
USF is a melting pot with a variety of people from different backgrounds and beliefs. No matter who you are, USF 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. USF, 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. USF 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 USF’s students and faculty.
Unfortunately, the worst part of this act is that people can engage in 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 the speakers are not disruptive or violate the law, they are able to engage in this type of speech. USF has experienced this in the past including controversial speaker Milo Yiannopoulos, the former alt-right tech editor of Breitbart News. Most speakers at USF speak at the Yuengling Center, which is not affiliated with the campus, so rallies and other events are allowed as long as the event is paid for and proper security is present. On-campus, you will sometimes see groups outside of the library with banners and signs about different issues of today.
Students still have free speech rights and are still allowed to reserve outdoor areas on campus for event planning. USF does have an “events, signage and space management policy” which regulates its open space policies. Failure on the part of a speaker to abide by university policies and regulations on USF property can result in several consequences including a “no-trespass warning, being banned from the property or given a fine.”
Jordan Philyor, USF Intern
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