GAINESVILLE, Fla.-- Speaking just a few hours before the scheduled speech by White Supremacist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida, university president Dr. Kent Fuchs defended his decision to keep the campus open and the more than $500,000 in security costs planned to keep the campus safe.
"(Because of the security) I think it will be one of the safest days of the entire year." Fuchs told First Coast News Thursday.
Most classes at the university are going forward as scheduled Thursday, though parts of the campus are restricted to students and faculty only including the student union. "I just refuse to allow him to cause us to close down and to stop education and to stop scholarship. I believe education is his greatest enemy," Fuchs said.
Spencer organized the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that sparked violent protests between counter-protesters and white supremacist groups. One person died and dozens were hurt when a car being driven by a white supremacist plowed into a group of counter-protesters.
Spencer is scheduled to speak at the Phillips Center on the southwest part of campus at 2:30 p.m. 800 tickets were distributed for the event and a large counter-protest is scheduled in the area. Spencer had originally requested to speak at UF just days after Charlottesville, but that request was denied to due security concerns then. Fuchs said that they could not deny the request to speak in October instead due to first amendment issues.
Fuchs told First Coast News he wishes that Spencer had chosen another university to hold his event, but that he's seen the UF community come together and use the events as a positive.
"By him being here, it's giving us a platform to talk about the values of higher education and the values of universities that welcome all kinds of people from all religions and skin colors," Fuchs says.