UF president Kent Fuchs urges 'everyone to stay away' from Richard Spencer speech

UF President Kent Fuchs.

University of Florida President Kent Fuchs released a video on Tuesday urging everyone to stay away from white nationalist Richard Spencer's on-campus speech later this month.

"I urge you to do two things," Fuchs said. "First, do not provide Mr. Spencer and his followers the spotlight they are seeking. I urge everyone to stay away from the Phillips Center Oct. 19th. Second, although I urge you to avoid the Spencer event, I ask that you not let Mr. Spencer's message of hate and racism to go unchallenged. Make it clear that messages of hate on campus are contrary to our values."

Spencer's group, the National Policy Institute, first requested for him to speak at the university in September but the university rejected the request, citing the violence in Charlottesville, Va.

"Our nation's great public research universities have increasingly become targets of groups that intend to gain national publicity for their messages of racism and hate by inciting protests which has led to violence," Fuchs said, referencing the University of Virginia and Berkeley.

The university eventually agreed to let Spencer speak after the group threatened a lawsuit. The NPI has paid more than $10,000 to rent the space. The university said it expects to pay more than $500,000 in security costs.

Fuchs said a lot of people may have been surprised that the university is required by law to allow Spencer to speak and that the school can't bill him the full cost to keep the campus safe. He said the university has set up a Q&A addressing the law and other issues at freespeech.ufl.edu.

"The values of our university are not shared by Mr. Spencer, the National Policy Institute or his followers," Fuchs said. "Our campuses are places where people of all races, origins and religions are welcome and treated with love. Our mission is to engage in the world's preeminent scholarship and education for the public good - not to sell lies, discord and violence."

Fuchs said student leaders are planning a series of events using the hashtag #TogetherUF to promote dialogue, education and the embrace of shared humanity.

The first event, a panel called "A Conversation on the First Amendment," is scheduled for Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 6:30 at the Rion Ballroom inside the Reitz Union. Fuchs said he will be there.

Finally, Fuchs asked members of the university to be caring, understanding and supporting each other.

"We refuse to be defined by this event. We will overcome this external threat to our campus and our values. We will become an even stronger community and an even greater university.

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