ANN ARBOR, Mich. – University of Michigan has opened discussions with a white supremacist Richard Spencer on his request to speak on campus but says there’s no certainty it’ll occur, President Mark Schlissel revealed Tuesday.
In comments posted online, Schlissel said Spencer’s appearance won’t go forward “if we cannot assure a reasonably safe setting for the event.”
A date for Spencer’s appearance has not been set.
During a special meeting of the Board of Regents later Tuesday, Schlissel noted that the university, as a public institution, is prohibited from blocking requests to speak on campus solely based on the content of that speech.
“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,” Schlissel told a meeting room packed with students. “Many followers who show up at his rallies share his repugnant beliefs and should be shunned by our community.”
Many students, some holding signs condemning Spencer, expressed their displeasure with Schlissel’s decision.
“Say no to Richard Spencer, and if you don’t, be ready to have my blood on your hands,” student Vidhya Aravind said.
Regent Denise Ilitch disagreed with Schlissel’s decision, saying she rejects the white supremacy advocated by Spencer.
“I reject his anti-Semitic, racist views and his hate of LGBT citizens as well as many others,” she said. “Unfortunately, I do not agree with the University of Michigan administration.”
Ilitch pointed out that Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Penn State, the University of North Carolina and Auburn University all denied Spencer’s request to speak on their campuses.
Auburn’s barring of Spencer and his associates from the campus in April prompted a federal lawsuit. A judge ruled against Auburn, which then allowed Spencer to speak.
Spencer, a leading figure in the white nationalist movement, has advocated for an “ethno-state” that would be a “safe space” for white people. He helped organize a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August that resulted in violence and the death of a woman protesting against the white nationalist agenda.