We have seen an increase in physical assaults on campuses in the last few years as some students and professors seek to harass or silence those with opposing views. The latest example comes with the criminal battery charge filed against FSU student Shelby Anne Shoup. She was captured on videotape as they threw chocolate milk on conservative students and kicked over a sign for Ron DeSantis. Notably, it was the FSU police who made the arrest. Notably, we also discussed a poll today showing that one out of three college students believe that violence is justified to stop what they consider to be hate speech. The incident raises a tough question whether such an offense warrants a criminal charge, though it is possible for a court to allow an expungement for some types of misdemeanors in the case of first offenders.
Shoup has every right to confront the students and disagree with them but she proceeds to throw and kick things as her way to dealing with the argument:
Shoup is reportedly an intern for the Andrew Gillum for Florida Governor Campaign.
She makes reference to the Pittsburgh shooting to accuse the other students of supporting Nazis.
Some schools have sent mixed messages on such assaults — often depending on the specific viewpoint being silenced. At the University of California at Santa Barbara, feminist studies professor Mireille Miller Young led her students in attacking pro-life advocates, stealing their display, and then committing battery on a young woman. Despite pleading no contest to criminal assault, Miller Young not only was retained but widely supported by faculty and students, including those who viewed the pro-life advocates as “terrorists” who should be kept off campus. This month, the University of Oregon gender studies department is featuring her as a speaker. Likewise, recently a Ryerson University employee attacked pro-life students on campus. Last year, Middlebury College professor Allison Stanger was injured by protesters after she merely accompanied a controversial speaker to campus.
Under Section 784.03, Florida Statutes, battery is defined as:
- Any actual and intentional touching or striking of another person against that person’s will (non-consensual), or
- The intentional causing of bodily harm to another person.
No direct contact is needed so throwing liquids or spitting can constitute battery under the provision. Mohansingh v. State, 824 So. 2d 1053, 1054-55 (Fla. 5th DCA 2002) (spitting).
This is generally a first degree misdemeanor in Florida that comes with up to a year in jail, or a probationary sentence not to exceed one year. It would be highly unlikely to have a jail sentence. Indeed, this is a minor form of contact. Do you feel this should be handled as a crime as opposed to a university offense? One argument for the arrest is the apparent need for both students and faculty to engage in free speech without resulting to physical assault.
There is also the question of how FSU should respond to the case. Again, this is not a serious physical attack and, despite the need for Shoup to learn fundamental concepts of free speech and tolerance (and a statement accepting responsibility), I do not see the need for an expulsion as opposed to a suspension for a term or some other form of discipline in such a circumstance. Do you agree?