University of Florida Prez Defends Nazi-themed Student Gov Fliers on Free Speech Grounds

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Politics can get dirty, even on the Student Government level. Take for example a recent flier that started showing up on the University of Florida campus that read "Student Alliance party is the Nazi Party," which featured a swastika. The fliers are attributed to a fake group called "UF for Israel."

Student Alliance is one of the student body parties vying for control of student government.

"It's a reprehensible act of hate, and it has no place on our campus," Ben Cavataro, the party's presidential candidate, tells the Independent Alligator.

The opposing party, the Unite Party, says it has nothing to do with the flyers.

"It's not doing anyone any good, and it's just very upsetting that someone would do something like that," the opposing party's candidate tells the student paper.

The leader of Gators for Israel, who's running with the Student Alliance for treasurer, has even asked a US Congressman to get involved

But University of Florida president Bernie Machen just sent out an email to students defending the swastika-marked fliers on grounds of free speech.
Dear students,

Recently, a flier that equates a student government party with the Nazi party using a swastika has prompted much discussion on campus. I am writing to address the issues it has raised and to share my thoughts with you.

I do not believe that any of the parties running candidates for student government support Nazi ideals. And, in my personal opinion, the flier is wrong. Nevertheless, this is a public academic institution, and we support the right to free speech. While our openness is a strength, it can also pose difficulties, because messages that are controversial or offensive are protected.

I understand this flier has been hurtful to many on campus. What I hope we take away from this incident is that while the First Amendment gives us great freedom in protecting speech, including offensive speech, it also comes with great responsibility to use this freedom wisely.

Sincerely,

President Bernie Machen
Compare that to University of Miami President Donna Shalala's reaction after a swastika was found scrawled on a bathroom stall near the school's Jewish Studies department: "Defacement of university property is a crime and to do so with this symbol of hatred, which is offensive to all of us, is a despicable and cowardly act. There is no place in our community for bigotry and intolerance. I condemn these acts in the strongest of terms on behalf of the University."

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