People can’t just come to UCF’s campus and engage in hate speech, can they?


Speech cannot be restricted by UCF because of the offense or emotional distress that it causes. “Hate speech” is a term that does not have a hard-and-fast definition in the law, because people use the term in various ways. But to the extent that “hate speech” is defined as speech expressing generalized hatred of a particular group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sexual expression, political leanings, sex, age or disability, then, yes, people can come to campus and engage in hate speech – so long as they do not become disruptive to campus operations or violate the law in doing so. This is a hard thing for many people to accept, but it is the result of the historical placement of free speech as one of the most strongly protected rights in our country. The First Amendment does have limits. For example, the First Amendment does not protect speech where a speaker targets a particular individual (or small identified group of individuals) for harm, such as a true threat of physical violence. The First Amendment also does not protect targeted harassment that interferes in a severe or pervasive manner with a particular student’s (or a particular identifiable group of students’) ability to participate in the educational programming of the university. The First Amendment also does not protect a speaker who disrupts campus operations while speaking, such as by blocking the entrance to a building. If a speaker’s behavior violates the law or disrupts the functioning of the university, it can be stopped. This is a very brief summary of what is a very complicated area of the law, so please understand that this answer is necessarily incomplete.