As announced last week, the National Policy Institute will be renting the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, Oct. 19, from 2:30-4:30 p.m. for a speaking event with the institute’s president, white nationalist Richard Spencer.
In its announcement of the decision, the university emphasized that no one at UF had invited Spencer or is sponsoring the event and that the racist ideas espoused by the speaker conflict with the values of our institution. A new UF website, freespeech.ufl.edu, was launched to provide information about free speech and controversial speakers as well as answers to questions about decisions to allow the event and campus security measures being taken.
“I encourage everyone to visit freespeech.ufl.edu and review the information about the Spencer event,” said UF President Kent Fuchs. “Messages of hate and racism on our campus, while protected by the First Amendment, are not welcome. My hope is that we will set a national example for overcoming these messages through demonstrating our true values — including respect for one another, celebration of our differences, recognition of our shared humanity and love for one another.”
Supervisors encouraged to address concerns and provide flexibility
Over the past month, UF administrators have met regularly with state, local and federal law enforcement agencies to develop a comprehensive campus and community security plan. The university administration understands there may be some situations in which employees feel uncomfortable about working on campus on Oct. 19. In some cases, office operations will be directly affected by the event (see information below), and the university will be working with those areas to identify how to address those specific situations.
Generally, the university will be open for classes and operations on Oct. 19, and as a result, it is anticipated that employees will report to work as scheduled. Employees who have special concerns are encouraged to talk to their immediate supervisor about an alternative — such as working from home that day (if feasible), flexing their work schedule or taking time off from work.
Supervisors are encouraged to be understanding and proactive in reaching out to their employees and addressing issues of concern on a case-by-case basis. If assistance is needed to identify how best to address an employee’s concern, faculty and staff may contact UFHR’s Employee Relations office at (352) 392-1072 or EmployeeRelations@hr.ufl.edu.
Facilities and transportation to be affected in areas surrounding Phillips Center
The Florida Museum of Natural History, Harn Museum of Art, Southwest Recreation Center and Steinmetz Hall (home to the Department of Entomology and Nematology) will be closed on Oct. 19. The Counseling and Wellness Center on Radio Road also will be closed that day but will have a satellite office available for students in Peabody Hall. Some classrooms will be impacted due to their proximity to the Phillips Center; affected faculty and staff will be notified in advance if this is the case.
The roads immediately around the Phillips Center will be closed to traffic, possibly including segments of SW 34th Street. As such, the parking garage and lots in front of the Phillips Center will be inaccessible. Additionally, law enforcement encourages students, faculty and staff to avoid using the parking lot behind the Hilton Hotel and Conference Center on Oct. 19. Bus service to that area of campus is also expected to be limited.
Because campus parking will be especially limited that day, students and employees who generally park in that area are encouraged to find an alternative way to campus. Parking for the residence halls near the Phillips Center will be for residents only. Gainesville’s Regional Transit System offers numerous routes and stops; check out schedules here.
Planned events and resources reflect UF’s culture of care and concern
UF student leaders have been working with Multicultural and Diversity Affairs and Student Activities and Involvement to host a series of events promoting dialogue, education and embracing difference and unity. Included among these events will be a virtual assembly that will air at the same time as Richard Spencer’s speaking engagement. Further details on that event will be available on freespeech.ufl.edu as soon as they are available.
On Oct. 11, UF will hold a panel event titled A Conversation on the First Amendment in the Rion Ballroom of the J. Wayne Reitz Union from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. This educational dialogue is co-hosted by Multicultural and Diversity Affairs, the Levin College of Law, the Bob Graham Center and the College of Journalism and Communications’ Brechner Center. The event will be live streamed for those who are unable to attend in person.
Additionally, counselors with the Counseling & Wellness Center will be available for students, and counselors with the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) will be available for faculty and staff. On Wednesday, Oct. 18, the EAP also will be offering a group session for faculty and staff to discuss their concerns. The session will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Student Health Care Center, with other group sessions being scheduled as needed.
The university administration is committed to the safety and well-being of its faculty, staff and students as well as our greater community. Please watch for additional communications in the weeks to come and be sure to visit freespeech.ufl.edu for ongoing news and updates.