Regents statement reaffirms student safety with Spencer’s potential visit

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 12:38pm

Several members of the University of Michigan Board of Regents released a statement Wednesday reaffirming the University’s previous announcement to assure student safety before allowing white supremacist Richard Spencer to speak on campus.

Six members of the board signed the online statement, which reiterated the University has not yet made a decision as to whether or not Spencer will be allotted space to speak, and the primary focus of the University is to confirm the safety of the possible event.

“Richard Spencer wants to rent space on our campus,” the statement read. “The university has begun discussions to determine whether that can be done safely. We don’t know yet the outcome of those discussions, but it is essential, if we move forward, to have as much control as possible about the time, place and manner of such an event. Our first concern is the physical safety of our community.”

Regent Shauna Ryder Diggs was one of the Board members that chose not to sign the statement. In an email response, she wrote she decided not to sign on to the group written statement because topics like Spencer should be discussed at open Regents meetings or forums.

“I am in favor of the spirit of the statements but I believe these statements, deliberations and responses to a resolution should take place in an open meeting,” Diggs wrote.

The statement also denounced Spencer’s alt-right ideology and said this issue goes beyond personal identity.

“We condemn Spencer’s abhorrent and vile views,” the statement read. “We do so together as Regents: Whatever our differences of party, religion, gender, race, or national origin, we stand united in our condemnation of the evil of what Spencer and his ilk espouse.”

Diggs wrote while she supports action on issues like Spencer’s potential visit, she said a written joint statement is not the most effective way to go about a response.

“I strongly feel that we as board members should act on these important issues of racism and anti-Semitism and act on resolutions in a transparent fashion at an open public meeting,” Diggs wrote. “Our board actions on issues such as racist comments written on student dorm doors, anti-latinX graffiti written on the rock, anti-Semitic events and other reprehensible acts should be done in an open meeting. Our individual statements and actions as publicly elected officials are the most powerful and impactful when done in our open public meetings.”

Earlier this month, Spencer’s attorney Kyle Bristow, who is negotiating Spencer’s possible visit to the University, proposed dates during the University’s Spring Break, according to an email sent to the University’s general counsel Timothy Lynch, which Bristow shared with the Detroit Free Press.

“If a date between February 24 and March 4, 2018, will work for Richard Spencer’s speech on campus, we will need to know sooner rather than later so that travel arrangements can be made for the numerous involved parties who will need to obtain airfare, lodging, and ground transportation,” Bristow wrote.

According to the release, the University has until Jan. 15 to make a decision on Spencer’s visit or Spencer’s team will file a lawsuit.

This article has been updated to include an email statement from Diggs.