On Thursday afternoon, Michigan State University announced white supremacist Richard Spencer would be permitted to speak at the university on March 5. This decision comes as part of a lawsuit against MSU after it initially denied Spencer’s request to rent space at which to speak, citing security concerns in the wake of the white supremacist, “Unite the Right,” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which one woman was killed. Kyle Bristow, an attorney representing Spencer’s team, dubbed the decision a victory for the “alt-right.”
“This is a resounding First Amendment victory for the Alt-Right,” Bristow said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. “Left-wing censorship of right-wing ideas in academia is unacceptable.”
In a statement, MSU president Lou Anna Simon reaffirmed the university’s rejection of Spencer’s message and said the arrangement of the event was intended to minimize risk.
“This agreement was based on the university’s requirement that the event occur on a date and at a venue that minimizes the risk of violence or disruption to campus,” Simon said. “The security of our campus community remains our top priority and all appropriate security measures will be taken in connection with the event. Michigan State rejects this group’s divisive and racist messages and remains committed to maintaining a diverse campus and supporting an inclusive, just and democratic society.”
MSU and Spencer’s lawyers agreed to a two-hour speaking time from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education. Spencer will rent the space for $1,650 and MSU will provide security and ticketing. Spencer will provide insurance for the event but will not contribute to securing the event and will not hold any other event on MSU’s campus.
March 5 is the first day of MSU’s spring break, a time in which many students return home and are off campus. In negotiations regarding the pending request from Spencer to speak on the University of Michigan’s campus, Spencer’s team also requested dates during the University’s spring break. After announcing they would begin negotiations in November, the University said it would suggest dates to Spencer’s team by the end of January.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the event would be lacking in attendance. In a December email shared with the Detroit Free Press, Bristow said one of the reasons they needed a quick response from the University was so they would have time to make travel arrangements for “numerous involved parties.”
University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen said that there are no updates on whether the decision in the MSU case will affect U-M’s negotiations with Spencer.