Richard Spencer wants to speak at UMich. What are we going to do about it?

The return of the Tiki torches

Over the summer, it was nearly impossible to avoid seeing images in the news and social media of white nationalists marching with torchlights inciting direst and ultimately violence on the University of Virginia's campus in Charlottesville.

And now, the alt-right, white supremacist who organized the infamous Tiki torch protest wants to speak at the University of Michigan. Earlier this week, Richard Spencer submitted a request to speak at the Ann Arbor campus. This comes as one of his several attempts to stir unrest on college campuses and challenge the free speech policies of public universities.

Rick Fitzgerald, the University’s Vice President of Public Affairs, has stated that, “the University will carefully consider this request, paying close attention to the safety and security of our community. We do not deny requests for the use of our facilities based on content. No decisions have been made yet.”

As recent as earlier this month, Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency. During his Q&A, a Tab reporter asked Spencer how badly it hurt when he got punched in the face at an inauguration event in Washington.

Shortly after the horrendous incidents of Charlottesville our neighbor, Michigan State, and other universities flat out denied Spencer’s request for a speaking platform on campus. However, with Spencer tactfully playing with free-speech rights, several public universities like the University of Michigan find themselves in a tight spot as Spencer and supporters are filing lawsuits against universities who have barred him from their campuses.

Today, the Michigan Refugee Assistant Program (MRAP) released a statement urging the University to block Spencer from speaking on campus.

While the alt right movement has been around for several years, it has gained national attention recently for the alarming visible spread of racist ideology including the preservation of “white identity” and advocacy of an “ethno-state” that would banish minorities in the United States.

We have seen this on Michigan’s campus itself in the appearance of anti-Semitic, Black, and Latinx flyers and the call to “make America white again.”

Both the Michigan chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and the Black Student Union have also released official statements in the form of letters addressed to University President Mark Schlissel and the Board of Regents pressing the significance of rejecting Spencer’s request to speak at Michigan especially in the wake of a racially tense climate following the spread of racial slurs, violence, and protest on campus.

By denying Richard Spencer a platform on this campus you have the opportunity to make strides towards those tangible improvements and build a strong relationship with UM students…make the decision that best ensures the physical, mental, and emotional well being of their [administrators] students (NAACP).

Previously quoted for saying that “racism has no place on this campus,” President Schlissel has the golden opportunity to back up this notion by rejecting Richard Spencer’s request.

University of Michigan