Spencer seeking to speak at University over spring break

University President Mark Schlissel gives opening remarks at the Regents' Meeting in the Union Thursday.

University President Mark Schlissel gives opening remarks at the Regents' Meeting in the Union Thursday. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

 

Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 6:42pm

White supremacist Richard Spencer and lawyer Kyle Bristow are pressuring the University of Michigan to find a date and “reasonable location on campus" for Spencer's potential speech on campus by Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Bristow announced in a press release on Thursday.

“Either select a date by January 15, 2018—Martin Luther King Jr. Day—at 5:00 p.m., or else be sued in federal court just like Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Auburn University,” the release read.

According to the release, as part of the negotiations between the University and Spencer's team, the University has also already offered several dates for an event: Nov. 29 and 30 — just a week after the University announced it would be entering negotiations — and Dec. 27 and 28, when many students would be away from campus for Winter Break.

“None of (the dates) have been convenient for the event organizers,” Bristow wrote in the release.

Georgia State University student Cameron Padgett — a student who has been making requests on Spencer’s behalf at other universities such as Penn State University, Michigan State University and the University of Florida, and who made the original request for a potential event at the University — is now requesting a date between Feb. 24 and March 4, which covers the University's Spring Break. The administration is considering the request, Bristow — who represents Padgett — said.

While the administration has repeatedly emphasized that students' safety is their first priority in negotiations, students have responded there are no circumstances under which they would feel safe. At the University’s Board of Regents' meeting on Thursday, Central Student Government President Anushka Sarkar, an LSA senior, presented a petition against Spencer's presence, which she said had been signed by over 5,000 students since being sent out Tuesday. A separate petition from alumni, she said, has received over 6,200 signatures.

“I echo thousands of students and community members when I say we will not be safe if he and his followers come to our campus," Sarkar said. "Richard Spencer should not be accommodated.”

According to an email from Bristow sent to the University's general counsel Timothy Lynch, which Bristow shared with the Detroit Free Press, one of the reasons they needed a response by Jan. 15 was so his team could bring Spencer's supporters to the event.

“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.

Considering he had extended the deadline for finalizing negotiations twice, Bristow said this was the final opportunity.

“There will be no further extensions of my client’s demand to be permitted to exercise his constitutional right to free speech,” Bristow said. “We’ve been patient, but our patience has its limits.”