University of Central Florida Administration Provides Update After BLM Protestors Attack Journalist on Campus

By  //  September 12, 2020

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An update on the Sept. 10 on-campus incident

University of Central Florida administrators released a statement after reporter Kaitlin Bennett was attacked on campus Thursday by Black Lives Matter protesters. (LibertyHangout TV video image)

EDITOR’S NOTE: University of Central Florida administrators released the following statement after reporter Kaitlin Bennett was attacked Thursday on campus by Black Lives Matter protesters:

UCF is committed to responsible speech and civil dialogue from all perspectives. We also expect everyone to follow our COVID-19 policies.

An external group’s visit to campus on Thursday, Sept. 10, showed that we can and must do better. We did not immediately address behavior — including not wearing face coverings and not physically distancing — that could pose risks to the health and well-being of others.

We will do better following the university’s own protocols for addressing lack of compliance with standards that are in place for everyone’s health and safety. Individuals who refuse to wear face coverings will be asked to leave or will be removed from campus.

UCF is committed to responsible, open discussion, and we want all perspectives to be heard civilly and safely. We are continuing to review yesterday’s situation, including reports of aggressive behavior, along with steps we can take to better meet our community’s expectations.

WARNING:  This content contains profane language and obscene gestures.

What is UCF doing to make it better?

We are updating our protocols, including additional staff involvement and providing additional guidance to staff about holding others accountable for complying with our policies and regulations. This includes also providing campus visitors who contact the university prior to their arrival with clear, written information about the individual measures required by UCF’s COVID-19 policy, along with the consequences for not complying with university policy.

What is Florida’s Campus Free Expression Act?

Florida’s Campus Free Expression Act designates all outdoor areas of campus that are generally accessible to the UCF community as usable by any member of the public for any spontaneous expressive activity. This is a change from past practice at UCF, when members of the general public without an explicit invitation from the UCF community would be limited to using designated “free assembly areas” and were required to provide notice of their intention to use those areas.

At UCF, we believe in the free exchange of ideas, and we have long held that the free exchange of opinions is the bedrock of higher education.

Learn about how to Use Your Voice at UCF and see answers to frequently asked questions about free expression on campus.

What are UCF’s COVID-19 policies?

UCF requires everyone on campus to wear face coverings at all times, whether indoors or outdoors, with very limited exceptions.

UCF’s COVID-19 policy requires everyone to wear face coverings, maintain physical distance and follow the other rules outlined in the policy. University staff had met with Thursday’s visitors the day prior to their visit and explained the university’s COVID-19 policy, including the consequences for noncompliance.

How is UCF’s mask policy enforced?

UCF has a tiered approach for how to respond in a situation where someone is not wearing a mask on campus:

Ask the person to put on a face-covering per UCF’s policy and refer them to available options, such as picking up a free UCF face covering from a distribution site or vending machine on campus. If the person does not put on a face covering, proceed to step two.

Ask the person to leave the area because they are not wearing a face covering and are not in compliance with UCF’s policy. If the person does not leave proceed to step three.

The person leading the class, event, meeting, or gathering should cancel the occurrence and leave the area. Report the incident to the coordinating program, department, supervisor, Student Conduct, Human Resources or the Compliance, Ethics, and Risk Office, as appropriate.

View more information about these steps as well as suggestions for how to have a courageous conversation.

What was UCFPD’s role yesterday?

UCF Police only becomes involved in COVID-19 policy enforcement if an individual refuses to comply with direction from staff or if there is a physical threat.

Officers were on scene Thursday to protect lawful free expression. Unfortunately, tension eventually broke out among the external group and members of our campus community, and UCFPD took several statements and is reviewing video footage. This is an active police review.

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