On Tuesday, October 24, a board of trustees for the University of Cincinnati held a conference to address the controversial decision to let white nationalist, Richard Spencer, speak on campus. President of the University of Cincinnati, Neville Pinto cited the First Amendment and freedom of speech as reasons for the decision. At the conclusion of the conference, board chairman Thomas Cassidy condemned Spencer’s message saying the following:
"We the Board of Trustees stand with President Pinto in the reaffirming of the core values of the University of Cincinnati. We the Board of Trustees condemn hate. Hate has no place on our campus, or in our world. As President Pinto has asserted in his August 2017 message to our community hate leaves no room for moral ambivalence, at best, it poisons the human spirit, at worst, it courts death and destruction."
UC differs from other schools like Ohio State University in its decision to allow Spencer a platform. OSU rejected his request to speak citing security concerns. It should be noted that Richard Spencer was a key speaker in the Charlottesville, Virginia “Unite the Right” rally. As you probably know, that event ended with the death of a counter-protester after a Nazi-sympathizer barreled through a crowd of pedestrians. Ohio State is now being sued by white nationalist and Richard Spencer-booking-agent, Cameron Padgett. Padgett is seeking upwards of $75,000 from the university for rejecting Spencer’s request. While this may seem like a hefty lawsuit, it may be easier, financially, for Ohio State to pay for a court case. The University of Florida, which has allowed Spencer to speak, is reported to have spent $500,000 on security for the visit according to The New York Times. Whether or not security will be amped up at the University of Cincinnati is yet to be determined.
While many may try to boil this down to an issue of freedom of speech, I can’t help but believe it’s more complex than that. I’ve always been a supporter of the First Amendment, however this comes down to the security of students. His speaking event at the University of Florida was met with opposition protesters. According to The Los Angeles Times, those protesters were shot at with “intent to kill” by supporters of Spencer. Remember that this is the university that spent $500,000 to increase security. Fortunately, the three men were promptly arrested by police. This is where this issue becomes less about free speech and more about security of students. Spencer, himself, can be ignored or protested. He has the right to believe what he wants no matter how radical. The danger comes from those who support him. As we can see from past events, his followers have no problems inciting violence. Shouldn’t we be learning from these kinds of events? Why were security concerns enough for Ohio State to say no, but not my university? I’m left with more questions than answers here.
The decision to allow him to speak has been made. That being said, all I know to do at this point is pray. Pray that any protests stay peaceful. Pray that security will be diligent in stopping any kind of violence. Pray that Spencer does not attract any form of support in spreading his message. Heck, pray that Richard Spencer has a change of heart and sees how very wrong his views on humanity are.