UF President Kent Fuchs emailed students and faculty Tuesday afternoon and warned them to stay away from white nationalist Richard Spencer’s on-campus appearance, which is next week.
Fuchs emphasized in the email that UF’s values do not align Spencer’s. The speech is set for 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 19 at the Phillips Center for Performing Arts.
“(Do) not provide Mr. Spencer and his followers the spotlight they are seeking. They are intending to attract crowds and provoke a reaction in order to draw the media,” Fuchs wrote in the email. “By shunning him and his followers we will block his attempt for further visibility.”
After months of back and forth between UF and the National Policy Institute, which Spencer leads as president, the university announced the date of the event last Thursday. Spencer will pay $10,564 to rent the space, while UF and other agencies, including University Police and Gainesville Police, will spend more than $500,000 on security, according to Alligator archives.
Fuchs pointed to a campaign called #TogetherUF aimed to promote open dialogue in light of Spencer’s appearance. The first event, “A Conversation on the First Amendment,” will be Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Rion Ballroom of the Reitz Union. Fuchs said he plans to attend.
He encouraged students to voice their discontent with Spencer’s values and stand up for their own in the email.
“We will overcome this external threat to our university and our values,” Fuchs wrote. “We will become an even stronger community and an even greater university.”
For the people that attend the speech or protests, security will be heightened on campus and in the city. The City of Gainesville is not releasing exact details on its preparations to accommodate the massive inflow of people expected to show up. City spokesperson Chip Skinner said officials are letting UF take the lead on logistics.
Skinner said the city has contingency plans in place should protests spread off-campus. Residents should be extra vigilant on the day of Spencer’s appearance, he said.
“We’re asking that people go along with the national campaign: If somebody sees something, say something,” Skinner said. “Contact law enforcement if someone is behaving strangely or you see something that looks suspicious.”
Mayor Lauren Poe said he worries about the possibility of protesters and counter-protesters taking to major roadways like West University Avenue the day Spencer speaks.
“What we have found at other venues, whether it’s Charlottesville or Berkeley, is these things tend to go mobile,” Poe said. “We have no prediction of where they’ll go, but we worry about things going onto the streets.”