Following campus outrage over the impending visit of white supremacist Richard Spencer, the University has released a list of events to discuss free speech throughout winter semester titled “Speech and Inclusion: Recognizing Conflict and Building Tools for Engagement.”
At an emergency Board of Regents meeting in November, University President Mark Schlissel announced that the University would allow Spencer to speak on campus provided they find a safe time and environment in which to do so, much to the dismay of many opposing students, faculty and community members. #Stop Spencer, a group committed to preventing the Spencer event, plan to protest Spencer’s event, though a specific date for the event has yet to be determined.
Spencer's lawyer, Kyle Bristow, threatened the University with a lawsuit if a date isn't decided upon by January 15.
Stop Spencer member Hoai An Pham, LSA senior, explained while she understands free speech is necessary, she believes Spencer’s words are hateful and detrimental to the community.
“Diverse perspectives are of course necessary in order to gain a full understanding of any issue,” Pham wrote in an email interview with The Daily. “However, these conversations are not effective and can lead to false equivalences if power structures and dynamics are not acknowledged.”
An official statement from Stop Spencer echoed Pham’s sentiments. The group said it is doubtful Spencer’s speech will provide the essential qualities needed to fully understand opposition.
“While we support the idea of our campus gaining more knowledge regarding the challenges and systemic oppressions of the present, we fail to see how a full understanding of these issues can be gained in the manner that the University is currently undertaking,” the group wrote. “We hope that the University chooses to shift the focus of their talks to the actual derivations of systemic oppressions, and perhaps use the vast amount of resources at their disposal to engage in actions, rather than only discussions, to support marginalized people.”
The University administration released the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan in 2016 to implement new initiatives that focused on making the University a more inclusive campus.
According to a press release from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Speech and Inclusion series just released by Schlissel is meant to stimulate new discussions on campus about promoting a positive campus environment through productive conversations.
Topics in the series include a debate on the first amendment, freedom of the press and campus inclusion. The first part of the series will take place at Rackham Auditorium on February 15 and will debate the first amendment.