In October 2017, the University of Florida spent a staggering $600,000 for extra security measures to prepare for a talk given by white supremacist leader, Richard Spencer. At UC Berkeley, right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was met by hundreds of protestors, police officers, and barricades. His speech was delivered to a few dozen people in a nearly empty forum, and subsequently, the four-day "Free Speech Week" was canceled.
We're seeing a rise of the "heckler's veto," a term for disruptive behavior causing universities to cancel contentious programs. Conservatives argue liberals are stifling free speech, and liberals view free speech as a weapon used by the right to spread hateful rhetoric.
Are these divisive speakers ultimately benefitting the student body through constructive dialogue, or is their presence a dangerous distraction? Are the exorbitant costs to provide adequate safety protocols on campus worth it to taxpayers? Where does the First Amendment fit into this, and do public universities have an obligation to grant these speakers an audience?