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Intersection: Richard Spencer And Free Speech On College Campuses

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Richard Spencer. Photo: Flickr.

After being denied an opportunity once to speak at the University of Florida, Richard Spencer came back, prompting a state of emergency.

Ramsey Touchberry, reporter with WUFT in Gainesville, Susan Kruth, senior program officer for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and Scott Jaschik, editor of the website Inside Higher Ed joined intersection to talk about the importance of free speech and how those limits are being tested on college campuses.

The cost of security for Spencer’s event was estimated by the University of Florida at $600,000.

Touchberry said hundreds of state troopers came into Gainesville to prepare to the event.

“What it seemed like was that law enforcement in the state, and in the county and the city had seen what happened in Charlottesville and they were not going to make the same mistake happen, so they were certainly prepared,” he said.

Kruth said there are categories of speech that are not protected by the first amendment, which includes threats.

“When it comes to just general advocacy, even general advocacy for violence or prejudicial language doesn’t rise to that level of what UF can punish or prohibit,” she said.

Kruth said she thinks that this is a win for free speech.

“For anyone who holds controversial viewpoints I think this is probably a little bit reassuring or at least should be that UF took more of the right steps in this situation,” Kruth said.

Jaschik said he thinks there could be a potential shift on how Universities respond to people like Spencer.

“Richard Spencer in some sense wins when he speaks and there are lots of protests because everyone is paying attention to him, which is what he wants,” he said.

“I do wonder what would happen when as some have suggested the best response would be if no one showed up at all.”

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