Florida Throws In the Towel

By on December 14, 2007

It seems that the administration at the University of Florida (UF) has completely capitulated in its conflict with the First Amendment. Last month, several student groups at UF posted flyers advertising the showing of a movie about Islamic terrorism with the headline, “RADICAL ISLAM WANTS YOU DEAD.” In response, Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin e-mailed all UF students, writing that the student groups “owe the campus, and particularly campus members of the Islamic faith, an apology and a clarification.” Dr. Telles-Irvin backed away from her claim that the students must apologize after FIRE wrote a letter defending the poster as protected expression. A few days later, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum wrote a letter to the university expressing sentiments similar to those expressed by FIRE.

Dr. Telles-Irvin at first claimed that she did not mean to demand an apology. But McCollum insisted that she had worded her letter in such a way that it created a chilling effect on free expression. Telles-Irvin responded yesterday with the following e-mail to UF students:
From: UF Students List [mailto:REDACTED] On Behalf Of Dr. Machen and Dr. Patricia Telles-Irvin

Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2007 5:29 PM

To: REDACTED

Subject: Obsession Email

We are writing to comment on recent developments regarding free speech and open discourse on campus related to advertising for the film “Obsession.”

A misunderstanding of free speech concerns led to the suggestion that the film’s sponsors apologize for the posters advertising the film and clarify their message.
Upon reflection, the suggestion of an apology was not appropriate and is retracted.
First Amendment protected speech is of paramount importance and foundational to our institution.  Therefore, we plan to ask experts to help us develop a website, which will provide information on the First Amendment and rights of expression on campus.  This resource should be valuable to all constituents of the university community.
We encourage suggestions for topics to be covered in this website.
Thanks to FIRE and to the vigilance of Attorney General McCollum, students at the University of Florida can once again express themselves on this controversial issue without fear that the university administration will stifle or chill their expression.

Schools: University of Florida