- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The University of Michigan is weighing a request to host controversial white nationalist Richard Spencer as his booking agent pursues legal action against Michigan State University and other public colleges across the country for refusing similar requests.

Cameron Padgett, a representative of Mr. Spencer’s National Policy Institute think tank, emailed the University of Michigan last week “requesting a venue for a speaking engagement on our campus,” said UM spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald.

“The university will carefully consider this request, paying close attention to the safety and security of our community,” Mr. Fitzgerald said in a statement Tuesday.

Both Mr. Spencer and Kyle Bristow, Mr. Padgett’s attorney, told The Washington Times that the University of Michigan risks being sued if the request is denied.

“We’re willing to file suit or pursue other options,” Mr. Spencer told The Washington Times. “We will stand up for our rights and those of citizens,” he told The Times on Wednesday, adding that a determination will be made at a later date.

“I will not hesitate to sue UM,” Mr. Bristow told The Times.

Mr. Fitzgerald did not immediately respond to an email seeking his response to the potential legal action.

Mr. Spencer, 39, has presided over the National Policy Institute since 2011, five years before he first gained national notoriety for his association with the alt-right, an political movement linked to racist ideologies which rose to prominence during the 2016 U.S. presidential election cycle.

He notably participated in a far-right rally in Virginia this past August that ended in a protester’s death, and was subsequently denied permission to speak on several college campuses by administrators citing security concerns, spurring multiple federal lawsuits.

Indeed, any legal action initiated against the University of Michigan on behalf of Mr. Spencer or the NPI would add the school to a growing list of institutions sued in recent months for rejecting similar requests in the wake of the August 12 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Mr. Padgett threatened legal action earlier this year against the University of Florida after the school denied a request to host a speaking engagement featuring Mr. Spencer shortly after the Charlottesville rally, but administrators ultimately relented and leased campus space last month to NPI. The University of Florida’s concession hardly opened the floodgates for further engagements, however, and Mr. Padgett sued both Pennsylvania State University and Ohio State University in federal court last month for refusing similar requests. Both cases are currently pending.

Mr. Padgett previously sued Michigan State University in September after administrators there refused to host Mr. Spencer on account of security concerns. Both sides are slated to present arguments this Friday in Grand Rapids federal court. One state over, meanwhile, the University of Cincinnati is expected to announce as early as the end of the week whether it’ll let Mr. Spencer lease space on campus for a future event in the face of similar legal threats, a local NBC affiliate reported Monday.

Mr. Spencer’s appearance at the University of Florida’s Gainesville campus last month marked his first college speaking engagement since participating in “Unite the Right.” Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency prior to his visit fearing violent protests, and police ultimately arrested at least five people on- and off-campus in connection with his speech, including three men charged with attempted homicide in connection with allegedly shooting at a group of demonstrators about an hour after the event concluded.

The request sent to UM last week said that Mr. Spencer is flexible in terms of availability, the university’s spokesperson said Tuesday. Mr. Spencer had previously been slated to speak at a pair of events in Europe this month, but he pulled out of both on Monday in lieu of risking being denied entry.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide