University of Cincinnati to allow white supremacist Richard Spencer to speak on campus

UC decides to allow white supremacist Richard Spencer to speak on campus (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) -The University of Cincinnati will allow white supremacist Richard Spencer to speak on campus.

The activist had threatened to sue the university on Friday if they did not grant his request to speak on campus. The deadline has passed. Spencer's attorney said he'd file a lawsuit this weekend but that probably won’t happen now that UC has decided to allow Spencer to speak. UC is working to finalize the specific date and detail of Spencer's visit.


“They can either voluntarily let Cameron Padgett rent a room on campus where Richard Spencer can speak or else we will take it to federal court and we will seek any and all relief available to us,” said Kyle Bristow, Spencer’s Attorney.

Preserving the campus peace is just one reason UC trustees met Thursday afternoon. They discussed privately white nationalist activist Richard Spencer's request to rent a room and speak at UC. No decision was made at that time.

On Friday, UC President Neville G. Pinto wrote that “as a state institution, we must adhere to the foundational rights embedded in the First Amendment. That includes protecting speech of all types at all times -even, perhaps especially, words that are blatantly hateful or offensive. After all, we cannot silence those with whom we disagree without opening the doors to our own voices being silenced by those who disagree with us.”

“To be clear: Spencer, a white nationalist from the National Policy Institute, was not invited by any student, faculty or staff group affiliated with UC. In fact, countless members of our community have courageously pointed out that his ideology of hate and exclusion is antithetical to the core values of a civil society and an academic community. I stand with you in condemning dehumanizing views and racist practices,” wrote UC President Pinto. “In preparing for Spencer’s visit, know that your safety and security will be our top priority. We will work with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to implement a comprehensive plan for safety and security.”

UC was in a tough spot. Attorney Marc Mezibov has tried first amendment cases for decades. He says any attempt to keep Spencer out of a public university is an expensive, uphill battle.

“They could be held accountable. They could be compelled to open the forum to this speaker. They could be accountable if anyone suffers damages because of that. More speculative… but attorney's fees and the like,” said Marc Mezibov.

UC also faces the high cost of security. Spencer's likely to draw a crowd and a crowd of protesters. When Spencer spoke at Texas A&M, there were clashes.

On campus on Friday, no one spoke out in support of Spencer's message.

“I don't really think it's a good idea for him to speak,” said Zach Wing, a UC student.

“It just sounds like a bad idea that's going to start a bunch of fights and stuff,” said Malyka Musso, a UC student.

But some respected his freedom to speak, regardless of whether they respected what he had to say.

“I feel he does have the right to speak his mind. Of course, if the university has lawfully rejected that that is their right as well. I personally disagree with what the gentleman has to say,” said Robert Villolovos, a UC student.

UC says they were originally contacted about renting space for several hundred at the Marriott on campus. After asking a few questions, it became clear that Cameron Padgett was acting on Richard Spencer's behalf. At that point, UC officials decided to hold off on granting his request for a room.

Spencer has also given Ohio State University a Friday deadline to arrange for him to speak.

He will be speaking at the University of Florida next Thursday.

The university president and Florida Senator Marco Rubio are encouraging people to not attend.

The following is the statement from UC’s President Neville G. Pinto regarding the decision to allow Spencer to speak.

Dear UC Community,
I write to inform you that the University of Cincinnati will uphold the First Amendment and allow Richard Spencer to speak on campus. We are still working to finalize the specific date and details of such a visit.
As a state institution, we must adhere to the foundational rights embedded in the First Amendment. That includes protecting speech of all types at all times—even, perhaps especially, words that are blatantly hateful or offensive. After all, we cannot silence those with whom we disagree without opening the doors to our own voices being silenced by those who disagree with us.
To be clear: Spencer, a white nationalist from the National Policy Institute, was not invited by any student, faculty or staff group affiliated with UC. In fact, countless members of our community have courageously pointed out that his ideology of hate and exclusion is antithetical to the core values of a civil society and an academic community. I stand with you in condemning dehumanizing views and racist practices.
In preparing for Spencer’s visit, know that your safety and security will be our top priority. We will work with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to implement a comprehensive plan for safety and security.
At other public universities, presidents have asked their constituents to steer clear of such events, attempting to deny these attention seekers the spotlight they so desperately desire. Frankly, if or how you engage with Spencer’s event is your decision to make, and I will respect and support whatever civil and peaceful course you take.
My only request is that you find time and space on that day, of all days, to do two things.
First, reflect on what makes our learning community so extraordinary. For me, that competitive edge is our diversity—of backgrounds and beliefs, of identities and ideas, of perspectives and pathways. And no doubt it is the power and promise of that diversity to change the world for the better that has the hate-filled so unsettled.
Here I want to extend a special message of support to members of our community who feel targeted directly by Spencer. His hate only makes our love for you stronger. You are the reason this university is a first-class destination for the best and the brightest. Your difference is our strength, our pride, our purpose.
Second, make it a priority to recognize the humanity around us. Let’s seize this opportunity to live into action the values of inclusion, respect, responsibility and dignity that we all hold dear. Indeed, now is the time to make our Bearcat bond stronger than ever.
In the coming days, we will share additional information on this event, including a Q&A resource related to free speech, alternative programming, safety and logistics. Moving forward, we ask for your patience, support and understanding as we prepare for a trying time for our community.
Sincerely, Neville G. Pinto
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