University of Central Florida President John Hitt called
the violence in Charlottesville after a white supremacist rally "repugnant" and "an anathema to the values Americans hold dear."
In a letter
to the UCF community, Hitt says it's disturbing that so much of the violence occurred at the University of Virginia. Three people died during the white supremacist protest and counter-protest movements last weekend, including 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed after a driver plowed into a group of people. Hitt says hate groups are targeting public universities like UCF because they "vigorously promote free speech."
"I support what UVA President Teresa Sullivan said after Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semitic protestors stormed her campus," Hitt writes. "What took place at UVA 'wasn’t about ideas,' she said. 'People weren’t out there arguing with each other. They were clobbering each other. That’s a very different situation. That’s violence. Violence is not free speech.'"
Hitt's letter comes after the University of Florida denied
a request from white supremacist Richard Spencer to rent a space on campus for a speech, citing "serious concerns for safety." Spencer, who was at the center of the white nationalist rallies in Virginia, leads the National Policy Institute, which describes itself as an "independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity and future of people of European descent in the United States." One of Spencer's supporters has already threatened to sue UF over the decision.
Hitt says the views of white supremacists, Nazis and anti-Semitic groups are "on the wrong side of history and have no place in our future."
"UCF stands alongside those who oppose the racism, bigotry, and hate seen in Charlottesville," Hitt says. "We choose to side with equality, inclusivity, and respect. In my lifetime, Americans have defeated Nazis, won the Cold War, and fought for equal rights for all. Our progress toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive people is a strength of our great nation. Our embrace of justice and equality has been a beacon to others around the world. These values represent the best of America. Let us strive to uphold these values in all we do, now more than ever."