OPINION: There may be a solution to the “preachers on the Green” after all

Ethan Leckie, Opinions Editor

After witnessing the return of the infamous proselytizers for an entire year, UNF finally has taken a stand. Sort of.

“Generally, outdoor areas of our campus that are accessible to the public are available to anyone for any lawful expressive activity,” the university said on its new website. So, why can’t they just kick them out? Basically, they can’t.

On that webpage, there are answers to other questions and links to the First Amendment of the Constitution, along with other state legislation and university rules regarding expression on campus. 

Essentially, the site attempts to answer any questions students may have about free speech and expression on campus. 

While the website does not mention the aforementioned individuals on the Green, this seems to be the university’s first semi-direct response to students’ complaints regarding the issue. 

But back to the “preachers.” Why can’t they be removed? Well, since they do their demonstrations on the Green, which is a protected space for any public demonstration, they cannot be asked to leave. 

Unless they disrupt “the normal functioning of the University,” which in that case “UNF may invoke its time, place, and manner discretion” for outdoor spaces.

What is considered disruptive of the “normal functioning of the University,” you might ask? Well, anything that “includes a threat to health or safety, harassment of UNF community members or other unlawful speech.” 

On second thought, they might be able to kick them out after all.

I’m no free speech expert, but I think there may be a case here. The “preachers” have been reported to have followed students back to their dorms, which is a clear threat to health and safety. 

Also, if you have ever walked past them or been in their general area for more than five seconds, then you would know that the harassment criteria are checked off pretty quickly. 

UNF can invoke its “time, place, and manner” restrictions when speakers harass UNF members or threaten their health and safety, which some students say these individuals have already done.

Based on what UNF has shared about its abilities to regulate speech on campus, it can ask this group to leave campus. 

They are in clear violation of what the school considers protected speech, so what’s the holdup? Your move, UNF. I would love to be able to chill on the Green again.


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