Perhaps students at the University of Florida (UF) thought their tuition money was safeguarded before it was uncovered that the university spent $50,000 of mandatory student fees to host Donald Trump, Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, on their campus this past October. This, predictably, caused outrage among the student body and raised questions about how universities should be spending students' tuition money.

It is our belief that, while universities should absolutely use tuition dollars to book speakers that engage, challenge and educate students (no matter where they stand on a political spectrum), that money needs to come from the appropriate place.

We at LMU are no strangers to controversial speakers. Last year’s Ben Shapiro event, for example, caused weeks of intense discourse. However, funding for that event did not come from the University directly.

LMU policy on guest speakers states that costs and activity for hosting a guest speaker are “the responsibility of the Registered Student Organization or Departmental Student Program.”

“As someone who has had to review funding regulations for ASLMU extensively, it is bizarre to me that the [UF] student body president had this much freedom with such a substantial amount of funding,” said Emily Sinsky, the vice president of ASLMU and a senior international relations major.

Many may argue, however, that a university should not spend students' money on speakers that challenge or go against the general opinion of the student body. We disagree, and believe that controversial or unpopular speakers should be hosted at LMU. Challenging voices can help students grow more than popular voices. A speaker is only a problem when the money used to host them is supposed to be used for University advancement.

“We also have to look at the framework in which [UF’s student body president] was acting, because if their guidelines allow this type of behavior, then they should change them,” Sinsky said. “That's not even an issue with hosting someone as politically charged as Donald Trump, Jr., that's just bad practice for student government itself to give the president so much power.”

Elected leaders in ASLMU, as well as institutional leaders like the university President simply need to be transparent about what said money is for and how it is spent. As long as LMU follows the guidelines it sets for itself, there are no problems.

Jacob Cornblatt is a junior film, television, and media studies major who watches a movie every day. He enjoys laying in a hammock under a palm tree, longing for the suffocating humidity of Gaithersburg, MD.

Kayan Tara is a senior Theatre Arts and English double major from Mumbai, India. In her free time she likes taking naps on the beach, trying new foods and contemplating the vastness of the universe as she drinks way too many cups of tea.

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Student reaction to the announcement compared Trump Jr.’s speech to Richard Spencer’s speech on campus two years ago. Spencer, a noted white nationalist, paid to rent space on UF’s campus for a speech. As a public institution, UF could not prevent Spencer from speaking.

Students on Facebook claimed that by inviting Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle, students were funding “blatant corruption” with their student fees. Many also referred to the pair as “racists.”

In just a few hours after the announcement, students also announced a protest of the event. More than 300 people have marked that they will attend the protest on Facebook. Students privately discussed heckling and drowning out Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle’s speech.

Some Democrat students have suggested hoarding tickets to the event to prevent others from going.

One UF student, Minh Nguyen, sarcastically wrote “wouldn’t it be terrible if a large group of people reserved these free tickets and then didn’t go so there would be a whole bunch of empty seats? That would really suck if people did that.”

Similarly, anti-American Democrat Chelsea Dexter called on students to “get in there and drown them out!” UF staff member Cory Watson also called on students to obtain tickets and then throw them away.

UF College Democrats privately discussed in emails obtained by Campus Reform heckling the speech. One member even asked the group whether anyone was “down to get body tackled by Secret Service,” apparently suggesting protesting to the point of getting the attention of Secret Service.

College Democrats signed onto a resolution written by some members of student government that condemns Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle’s speech. The resolution criticizes the pair’s “hateful, bigoted, and offensive beliefs.”

UF’s student newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator, also expressed student frustration to Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle’s speech. An op-ed accused ACCENT the speaker bureau of harboring “conservative bias” for speakers, and suggested Trump Jr. should not have been invited to campus because he “has little to sell in the marketplace of ideas” and because “no one would ever mistake him for being an intellectual.” A letter to the editor criticized ACCENT for inviting a “hatemonger,” but offered no explanation of how Trump Jr. fit that description.

ACCENT defended its decision to invite Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle in a statement.

“Both speakers provide varying viewpoints and provide an opportunity for students to engage in thought-provoking dialogue and civil discourse,” the statement read. “At ACCENT, we respect every student's opinion, and part of our mission is to engage the UF campus community in discussions on important issues by bringing prominent, influential, and, oftentimes, controversial speakers to campus.”

UF also issued a statement about the event and welcomed the conservative pair to UF.

“For more than 50 years, ACCENT, the Student Government speakers bureau at the University of Florida, has selected and invited speakers to campus, and the University welcomes those speakers as its guest. Those speakers are paid with student activity fees, which are separate from tuition. This year, the invitation has been extended to Donald Trump, Jr., and Kimberly Guilfoyle and as with their predecessors, we will welcome them to campus.

The school also reiterated its commitment to freedom of expression:

“The University, in its statement on freedom of expression, has committed itself to ensuring that a wide variety of viewpoints are heard on campus as well as to protecting the First Amendment rights of all those in attendance. The University believes it is an essential component of its academic mission to foster an environment where divergent ideas, opinions and philosophies, new and old, can be rigorously discussed and critically evaluated.”

The statement also called for respectful protest that is “civil” and that “does not stifle the open expression of the opposing ideas.”

“Such challenges must not interfere with speakers’ ability to speak or with their audience’s ability to hear the speakers.”

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