ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WWJ/AP) — The University of Michigan has announced they will begin discussions with supporters of white supremacist Richard Spencer to determine if he’ll be allowed to speak on campus.
The University of Michigan Board of Regents held a special meeting on Tuesday night where they discussed Spencer’s request to speak on campus. University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel said if the university cannot assure a reasonably safe setting for the event, it will not be allowed.
“After consulting widely with many members of our community, I made the difficult decision to begin discussions with Richard Spencer’s group to determine whether he will be allowed to rent space to speak on the University of Michigan campus,” Schlissel said in a statement. “If we cannot assure a reasonably safe setting for the event, we will not allow it to go forward.
“My foremost priority is ensuring the safety of everyone at this university. However as a public university, the law and our commitment to free speech forbid us from declining a speaker based on the presumed content of speech. But we can and will impose limits on time, place and manner of a speaking engagement to protect the safety of our U-M community. Let me repeat: If we cannot assure a reasonably safe setting for the event, we will not allow it to go forward.”
Schlissel also shared in his written letter statement that if Spencer is allowed to speak on campus, that his opinions and views don’t reflect that of the university.
“I recognize that an appearance by Spencer will cause genuine emotional hurt to many members of our community,” Schlissel said. “I personally detest and reject the hateful white supremacy and white nationalism expressed by Mr. Spencer as well as his racist, anti-Semitic and otherwise bigoted views, as do the Regents and the entire leadership of this University. Many followers who show up at his rallies share his repugnant beliefs and should be shunned by our community.”
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said last month the university would pay “close attention to the safety and security of our community” in considering Spencer’s request. He said then a representative of Spencer’s National Policy Institute indicated there was flexibility with the speaking date.
Spencer participated in a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to deadly violence in August.
Michigan State University earlier this year turned down Spencer’s request to speak there. After Spencer’s group sued over that, a federal judge ordered the two sides into mediation.
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