Supporting Students being Threatened by Campus Protesters

January 11, 2018

Questioner: Curtis Phills

Posed to: Radha Pyati, President Faculty Association, UNF President John Delaney

As a faculty member at UNF, one of my great passions is working with and supporting our students. As we all know, it is exam week and our students are hard at work studying and completing our exams. Last week was world aids day and our LGBT center was handing out condoms. Someone not part of our community came on campus and started targeting and intimidating our students during this stressful period.
He was specifically targeting individual students and saying hateful things based on gender and sexual orientation. For instance, he targeted individual female students who were wearing yoga pants and told then that they would be going to hell. He also targeted individual LGBTQ students and also told them that they were going to hell. Members of the University Police Department (UPD) were present while our students were harassed and intimidated, and they did not intervene.
I have been told by General Counsel that targeting individual students, as this individual did, is a violation of UNF policy for outside groups exercising free speech on campus. Students who were targeted reported not being able to concentrate and take their exams to the best of their abilities. Some even reported skipping class or going home. Their ability to participate in educational activities is restricted by being individually targeted by this individual.
What advice does the FA President have for faculty to support students targeted by an individual in this way? What can we do when these students come to our offices or classrooms, upset and looking for support? What should we expect UPD to do in support of our students?

Partial answer from the Floor by FA President Radha Pyati
My advice for faculty would be to provide the most supportive environment for students so that they feel that they are in a safe space. I can discuss this issue with Tom VanShoor, Dean of Students, and representatives of the UPD to determine what can be expected of the UPD and student conduct code in such circumstances. The Faculty Association can provide a short version for faculty regarding the limitations of the conduct code so that we can express to students what is expected in this situation. The provision of a supportive environment is an expectation that we need to fill for our students. I will follow-up a more complete answer and provide a summary regarding these policies to which faculty can refer.

Partial answer from the Floor by Interim Provost Pam Chally
In situations like this, we should lean on our Counseling Center. They are open every day and can provide support for our students in these situations.


Response from UNF Police Chief Frank Mackesy

Current case law and new legislation by the Florida Legislator continue to recognize free speech as highly protected and for such targeting to be actionable it must be severe, persistent and pervasive (in other words, repeatedly occurring and causing the student harm) for it to be actionable. In addition to being severe, persistent or pervasive it must also have the impact of limiting or denying the student’s ability to effectively participate in the University’s programs and activities. This is a very tough standard to meet. If any member of the UNF family should observe such behavior as described above , according to UNF policy 7.0040R the following course of action should be taken:

“If, in the opinion of the President or his/her designated representative, an event is disrupting normal University operations or infringing on the rights of other members of the University community, the President or his/her representative may:

(a) Identify him/herself to the participants, giving name and official position;
(b) Inform the participants that they are in violation of the University policy and/or in violation of the law and specify the nature of the violation;
(c) Request that the violation cease; and
(d) In the event of noncompliance with this request, enlist the assistance of the University Police in restoring order and enforcing the law.”

The current designated representatives are identified by the President as the Interim Provost, or later the Provost, and any associate vice president under their supervision, in Academic Affairs or Student Affairs, to act as the President’s designee in enforcing the regulation. If that administrator’s efforts to enforce the regulation are unsuccessful, the University Police, as the President’s designee, may take necessary steps to enforce the regulation.