Beth Kassab: Florida Universities Should Know Better

August 28, 2013

In a column published last week, the Orlando Sentinel’s Beth Kassab reviewed Florida universities’ failures to protect free expression. Kassab cites Florida Atlantic University’s “stomp on Jesus” fiasco, among other incidents, but she ultimately awards the University of Central Florida (UCF) her “top honors for the worst over-reaction this year”: UCF Professor Hyung-il Jung made a dumb but harmless joke while prepping students for an exam."It looks like you guys are being slowly suffocated by these questions," he said. "Am I on a killing spree or what?"Even in light of an incident weeks earlier, in which a student plotted to shoot students in a dorm but killed himself instead, the statement was obviously a joke. Not to UCF, though, which questioned his mental state in a letter of reprimand.FIRE intervened and Jung was allowed back in the classroom. And maybe UCF learned a lesson. For more on Jung’s case and FIRE’s work on his behalf, check out our press release from May. When it comes to protecting speech on campus, Florida’s universities have an abysmal record in both practice and policy. UCF, for example, maintains a “yellow light” rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database for maintaining policies that could easily be used to restrict protected expression. Meanwhile, nine of the 14 rated Florida institutions have earned a “red light” rating for having at least one policy that clearly and substantially restricts protected expression. None of Florida’s rated institutions have received a “green light” rating. Kassab laments: What happened to public universities encouraging a free exchange of ideas?Apparently, ideas are welcome so long as they are nice, polite and inoffensive.This is how Florida is preparing college students for real life — by making sure they aren’t exposed to anything that might be disagreeable, politically incorrect or even the least bit rude?The intellectuals at the helm of our institutions of higher learning should know better. We thank Kassab for her attention to this serious problem and to FIRE’s work. Read the rest of Kassab’s article in the Orlando Sentinel (subscription required).

Schools:  University of Central Florida