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UCF welcomes campus demonstrators

Opinions Editor

Published: Sunday, September 1, 2013

Updated: Sunday, September 1, 2013 21:09

Westboro Baptist Church, protest

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Students utilize a free speech lawn in a counter protest to the Westboro Baptist Church during the summer.

As the university winds down from demonstrations from both the Westboro Baptist Church and the Genocide Awareness Project, the way UCF handles protestors, radical or tame, is a legitimate concern for students.

At the base level, does UCF have the right to limit such demonstrations to certain areas of campus? Cynthia Benson, instructor for the department of political science, said yes.

“You got to remember that UCF is a public government institution,” Benson said. “Free speech zones have been upheld as constitutional. Legally, as far as I know, they are on firm legal ground.”

UCF student political leaders agree.

“Everybody’s speech should be protected no matter what the message is, as long as there are no threats of violence,” junior and anthropology major Mikaela Mendoza-Cardenal and president of the UCF College Democrats said.

Benson also commented on the potential that free speech on campus has to offend some students.

“This is a university; students here are called adults, they are not children, OK? Government, in my opinion, is not in the business and should not be in the business of your emotional protection,” Benson said.

To demonstrate on campus, for non-affiliated parties, there are very few — if any — hoops to jump through. Chad Binette, director of UCF News and Information, said a quick conversation is typically the only necessary precursor to demonstration on campus and 24 hours of notice is encouraged so measures can be taken accordingly. In cases in which a party is not affiliated with the university, certain areas on campus are designated for such demonstrations. These areas are commonly — and incorrectly — referred to as “free speech zones.”

In an email, Binette stated while there are no free speech zones, there are free assembly zones in high-traffic areas of campus. Individuals looking to demonstrate can pick a spot to assemble based on the audience they aim to reach.

Rebecca McLaughlin, a junior marketing and management double major, said she takes no issue with how the administration is handling the protest.

“We would hear about it more if people had an issue with it,” McLaughlin, also the president of the UCF College Republicans, said.

Freshman and criminal justice major Kathleen Lindelow Koon agreed with the UCF policy as well.

“It doesn’t make sense to only allow some people,” Lindelow Koon said. “It’s obnoxious sometimes, but it’s just right to allow everybody.”

The general requirement of those who wish to demonstrate or gather on campus property are required to follow the general regulation that “no such uses may interfere with, disrupt, or impede the normal operations of the university, or otherwise interfere with or infringe on the rights of others.” Requirements can be found on the Office of Student Involvement’s Use Your Voice page. While most of the restrictions are simple peace-keeping regulations, there are special regulations for demonstrations that are deemed as “potentially hazardous events.”

According to UCF Regulation 6C7-4.0292, a potentially hazardous event is one “that could reasonably be expected to create a risk of harm to persons or of defacement or damage to public or private property.”

Before said potentially hazardous events are allowed to demonstrate on campus, a form must be filled out, found on the Office of Student Involvement’s Use Your Voice page, where all of this information can be found as well. The form is required so certain safety measures can be taken in advance.

The locations of free assembly areas on the main UCF Campus, according to the Use Your Voice page, include: the open grass between Colbourn Hall and the John T. Washington Center, between Health and Public Affairs II and Engineering II, on the corner of West Plaza Drive on the arena side of the street, just before All Knight Study at Knights Plaza, the grass adjacent to Classroom Building I and Memory Mall, the area between the Student Union and the John T. Washington Center, on the side near the loading dock and the grass triangle between Salsa-to-Go, the Mathematical Sciences building and the John C. Hitt Library.

There are two locations on the Rosen Campus of Hospitality Management as well, directly adjacent to the shuttle stop as well as the grass area north of the Rosen College Library.

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