Recent news reports and social media posts regarding University of Florida student groups facing disciplinary action for violating polices regarding face coverings and physical distancing do not represent a full and accurate picture. We are therefore compelled to provide a more complete accounting of the facts.
The groups – Turning Point USA, the Network of Enlightened Women, and Young Americans for Freedom – recently held a gathering at Norman Field. This was a planned organizational event and not a spontaneous gathering. The groups are under interim suspension for failing to register the event, as is required under university policy; more important, numerous attendees failed to follow university policies requiring the use of face coverings and physical distancing.
Some members of these groups have been quoted denying these charges. Here are the facts:
- UF has documentation in form of text messages that shows these groups knew they were supposed to register this event but did not; these text messages also show that members were aware of the policies on face coverings and physical distancing prior to the event.
- UF has photographic evidence showing attendees not wearing face coverings or physically distancing.
- Perhaps most serious, UF has photographic evidence of one attendee who had learned prior to the event that they should isolate, as is consistent with the CDC and State of Florida Department of Health guidelines, due to risk of infecting others. This individual was not wearing a mask and had their arms around two other attendees, jeopardizing the health and safety of those individuals and many others.
Finally, some members of these groups have been quoted in media reports accusing the university of targeting them for their political beliefs. This is simply untrue.
In accordance with our standard practice, the university has not taken, and would not take, action against a student or registered student group based on the viewpoint they represent or the content of their speech. Rather, the university has consistently addressed behaviors of students/registered student groups that might violate the Student Behavioral Expectations in Response to COVID-19 and the Campus Events and Gatherings in Response to COVID-19 to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community.
Consistent with our normal procedures, and as outlined by these policies, these organizations have received interim measures. This has been incorrectly reported by many media outlets. Interim restrictions are different than formal sanctions students/registered student groups may receive after a conduct process has concluded. Interim restrictions temporarily halt activities pending further review of allegations that may impact the safety and welfare of the university community while the conduct process continues. Next the university will share information surrounding the allegation(s) during a meeting with Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution, at which time each group will have the opportunity to respond. Again, this is part of our normal process.
Through the fall and spring semesters, four other student organizations and more than 20 individual students have received interim measures for COVID-19 related issues to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the university community.
A list of current registered student organizations and their conduct statuses are linked below:
As a public, world-class research institution, the University of Florida fosters an environment where divergent ideas, opinions and philosophies, can be rigorously discussed and critically evaluated in the academic environment. UF has a responsibility to provide First Amendment protections to its students, faculty, staff and other members of the community. We believe at our core that the academic excellence and inclusiveness values we strive for could not be achieved unless we fully adhere to these First Amendment principles.
UF continues to support our students in independent inquiry and vigorous academic deliberation and will continue to support this mission while also working to ensure our campus community members remain safe in these endeavors.