We at the Campus Antifascist Network, a multi-campus, international organization of scholar-activists, are writing to encourage you to revoke your invitation to the National Policy Institute to host a speaking event featuring the “alt-right” activist Richard Spencer on the campus of the University of Florida. You had made the correct decision earlier this semester to not allow Spencer to come because of the cost of ensuring the safety of faculty, staff, and students. These facts have not changed and we urge you to cancel the event.
Given your earlier denunciation of Richard Spencer, we do not see why the university needs to provide him a platform. As you yourself stated, “We encourage open and honest dialogue, and we strive to build an inclusive environment where hate is not welcome.” In other words, open dialogue does not include hate and, since Richard Spencer’s agenda is one of hate, he ought not be welcomed. Despite his claims of being a “race realist”—one of the most flagrant attempts, like the term “alt-right” which Spencer supposedly coined, to re-brand what is plainly fascism—e is a neo-Nazi and endorses the bigotry, racism, and violence of the Nazis. He has clearly stated his desires for ethnic cleansing and for the U.S. to be a white nation. He stated, for instance, “Martin Luther King Jr., a fraud and degenerate in his life, has become the symbol and cynosure of White Dispossession and the deconstruction of Occidental civilization. We must overcome!” He has also advocated “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans. It would be a new society based on very different ideals than, say, the Declaration of Independence.” He has also declared that this “country does belong to white people, culturally, politically, socially, everything. We defined what America is.” He believes in white superiority and has emphatically stated that “all men are created unequal.” This kind of hatred has no place on a university campus and is not the kind of speech that merits any standing or toleration at the University of Florida.
But there are serious safety concerns about Spencer’s visit as well. As you know, Spencer will be accompanied by Neo-Nazis and other fascist sympathizers. We all know too well the tragic events at Charlottesville, when peaceful protesters were attacked by Neo-Nazis and when a member of the openly fascist organization Vanguard America murdered Heather Heyer. The University of Florida simply cannot expose the almost 50,000 student body and 3,000 staff and faculty to this kind of danger. The unavoidable lack of safety is not a condition any member of our community ought to be asked to endure. Nor can the university afford the lawsuits that would surely ensue if a single student is hurt. Having the university spend $500,000 for security during Spencer’s visit is outrageous. How can your leadership justify this kind of expenditure when it comes, in large part, from students working 30 hours a week to be able to attend the university?
Although we understand and deeply value the university’s obligation to promote free speech, Spencer’s speech does not qualify for such promotion. There are forms of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment. These include speech that presents imminent physical danger and which disrupts the university’s mission to educate. Spencer’s speech is far from educational and would actively undermine the university’s educational capacities.
Alt-right followers have shot someone at the University of Washington, stabbed two people to death in Portland, stabbed to death a college senior in Maryland, beaten nonviolent protestors at the University of Virginia, and most recently murdered a protestor in Charlottesville. Our concerns about safety are sincere, and we demand that University of Florida be spared from such a list.
Recently, Spencer—flanked by Vanguard America members—returned to hold another torch-lit march in Charlottesville. There, before a statue commemorating confederate General Robert E. Lee, and the slave system that Lee wrongly fought to defend, Spencer promised that he and his followers were “not going to stand by and allow people to tear down these symbols of our history and our people.” This action, undertaken at an institution of higher learning in the dead of night, is nothing short of symbolic provocation and a declaration of Spencer’s intentions to continue pushing his bigoted, hate-fueled agenda onto college campuses.
Do not allow Spencer to put University of Florida, its students, faculty and staff in harm’s way out of deference to “free speech” unworthy of the name or fear of lawsuits. There will most certainly be lawsuits from the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that this event will create. Colleges and universities are charged with creating an environment for learning, but they are failing to do so by allowing agents provocateurs whose purpose is to come encourage hatred and violence, and whose presence puts the safety of students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community at risk. Support the UF community. Do not encourage right-wing terrorism on campus. Do not provide a platform for the hate that Richard Spencer represents.
The Campus Antifascist Network