UFF-UF and GAU-UF urge cancellation of white supremacist speaker at UF

August 15, 2017

Dear President Fuchs,

On behalf of the members of the United Faculty of Florida, I am writing to ask you to cancel or not schedule the forthcoming campus visit of white supremacist Richard Spencer. Spencer’s involvement in the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, August 12, demonstrate that he is not interested in participating in dialog or promoting the values of freedom of speech that we all hold dear.

Richard Spencer is an inciter and promoter of violence, a man who led a torch-light rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville in May, 2017 that was described as akin to a “KKK Rally.” This past weekend in Charlottesville, white supremacists “showed up with assault rifles and guns, wearing camouflage. They marched through a college campus with lit torches, yelling Nazi-era slogans and phrases such as, “’You will not replace us.’” (“What U.Va. Students Saw in Charlottesville,” The New York Times, August 13, 2017.) According to the Washington Post, many other University of Virginia students reported that the chant was modified to: “Jews will not replace us.” (“’Jews Will Not Replace Us’: Why White Supremacists Go After Jews,” The Washington Post, August 14, 2017.)

As the union representing faculty at the University of Florida, we must remind you that our Collective Bargaining Agreement requires the Board of Trustees and/or administration to:

  1. Protect faculty from attacks on our academic freedom
  2. Protect faculty from those who wish to discriminate against us, and
  3. Ensure at all times a safe working environment.

As you know, three individuals were killed this past weekend in Charlottesville and dozens more were wounded in a rally promoted by Richard Spencer, which in fact was a riot. University of Florida students have forwarded to us a disturbing group of messages they’ve gathered via social media from various individuals planning to attend Spencer’s event in Gainesville. The messages reflect the mindset of individuals bent on physical confrontation and mayhem. This is a link to the cache of disturbing messages, and I urge you to read these: http://boards.4chan.org/pol/thread/137280174

In addition, a concerned citizen forwarded to us a blog post from a Gainesville man who wrote a piece titled “A Thomistic Argument for Violence: Is it OK to kill Leftists?” This man traveled from Gainesville to Charlottesville and was reportedly arrested there. Here is his blog post:

Many students, faculty, and staff have approached the United Faculty of Florida in the wake of the Charlottesville riots, Dr. Fuchs. They have pleaded with us to use our voice to urge you to cancel or refuse to book Richard Spencer’s event. All of these individuals have expressed concerns over their personal safety given recent national and local incidents alluded to in this letter.

As recently as spring semester, 2017, African American faculty and staff at UF were confronted and harassed by white supremacists. Signage at the UF African American Studies program was vandalized, defaced, and destroyed. During one such harrowing incident, which involved a white supremacist physically cornering staff and faculty on campus, the affected colleagues noted that they were “frustrated the police didn’t immediately come, considering the rash of hateful incidents that have occurred on campus since January.” (See: “Man Trespassed from UF After Confronting Black Faculty Members,” The Alligator, April 17, 2017) We cannot allow a replay of this racist harassment of UF employees.

Based on our legal obligations under federal law as well as our mutual responsibilities as faculty, staff, and administration to create and to maintain a safe working environment free of discrimination, the United Faculty of Florida-UF requests with the utmost urgency that you cancel the upcoming Richard Spencer event at the University of Florida. Spencer’s event has the potential to put members of our campus community as well as residents of Gainesville in physical danger. We need to prevent this from happening.

Please President Fuchs, do all in your power to prevent Richard Spencer and his violently racist agenda from threatening the University of Florida and the broader community.

Sincerely Yours,

Steven Kirn,  Chapter President, UFF-UF

and Graduate Assistants United – University of Florida