The University of Florida (UF) speakers bureau has invited Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle—a political strategist, former Fox News host, and girlfriend of Don Jr.—to speak on campus later this month.
Many progressive students are not happy about it, and this time it's a little easier to see where they are coming from. That's because the couple will receive $50,000—and the students are footing the bill.
The University of Florida has something called the ACCENT Speakers Bureau, which is part of the student government. The bureau collects mandatory fees from students, then uses this money to hire speakers to come to campus. According to its website, ACCENT is "the largest student-run speakers bureau in the nation. It has been part of campus for over 40 years and has provided the University of Florida with a plethora of big names, including past Presidents, Prime Ministers, media moguls, business leaders and sports legends."
Some students are now discussing ways to disrupt the event, or at the very least prevent others from attending it, Campus Reform reports.
UF's administration put out a statement in defense of ACCENT's right to bring the speakers to campus and urging the students to be civil in response:
The University, in its statement on freedom of expression, has committed itself to ensuring that a wide variety of viewpoints are heard on campus as well as to protecting the First Amendment rights of all those in attendance. The University believes it is an essential component of its academic mission to foster an environment where divergent ideas, opinions and philosophies, new and old, can be rigorously discussed and critically evaluated.
To maintain this environment, the University strives to ensure that individuals are treated with respect. At the same time, the University recognizes the right of members of its community to analytically and respectfully challenge ideas so long as such challenges are conducted in a civil manner that does not stifle the open expression of the opposing ideas. Thus, such challenges must not interfere with speakers' ability to speak or with their audience's ability to hear the speakers.
UF is a public university, and thus its administration is correct to insist that invited persons be allowed to speak there, even if these persons hold views that are anathema to some students.
But it's one thing to allow speech. It's another to force students to subsidize it.
That's what the mandatory fees are for, of course, and as long as the student government is in the business of collecting them, it should use them to fund an ideologically diverse range of speakers. But I can't really fault students for balking at their fees being spent in this manner.
It's hard to argue against the position taken by student Zachariah Chou in the student newspaper:
I understand that many of these people have been invited to share perspectives not often heard, and to debate ideas worth being debated on a liberal college campus.
But if you asked me what I thought of Trump Jr. coming to campus, I'd probably respond by saying I wish Ben Shapiro was coming back for round two instead.
I get that universities are supposed to be like Candyland for free speech and stuff, but I really take issue with Trump Jr. coming to campus.
Compared to some of the other conservative speakers SG has brought to campus, Trump Jr. has little to sell in the marketplace of ideas.
The fees of conservative speakers are sometimes paid by outside groups or alumni. And in some cases, either the group or the university must pay obscene security costs—essentially a fine imposed by illiberal students who want these kinds of event shut down. In the UF case, though, students are being specifically obligated to subsidize speech by two people who are most notably Trump campaign operatives. If ever there was a case for abolishing such student fees, this feels like it.