Has Richard Spencer requested space to speak at U-M?
Yes, a representative (Cameron Padgett) of Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute sent the university an email request seeking to rent a venue for Spencer to speak on the U-M campus.
Why is the university allowing Spencer to speak on campus?
We don’t know whether we will.
As a public university, the law and our commitment to free speech forbid us from declining a speaker based on the presumed content of speech.
But we can and will impose limits on time, place and manner of a speaking engagement to protect the safety of our U-M community. If we cannot assure a reasonably safe setting for the event, we will not allow it to go forward.
In general, limits on time, place, and manner have been upheld in lawsuits alleging violations of First Amendment rights; content-based prior restraint – or denying the opportunity to speak in advance – has not.
This is an extremely difficult and painful decision, but also a critically important one. As a public institution, U-M considers all requests for the rental of our space in a content-neutral fashion, regardless of how abhorrent the views are of those who seek to use our facilities, as required by law. The university policy on free speech can be found here.
Why is the university announcing this now?
This request to rent space on campus has generated considerable interest in the university community, so we decided to share information as soon as a decision was made regarding how we will proceed. We have been discussing this on campus during the past month and we will continue to do so in the weeks ahead.
When and where is he scheduled to speak?
We do not yet know that he will speak. We have just announced that we will begin discussions with Richard Spencer’s group to determine whether he will be allowed to rent space to speak on the University of Michigan campus.
Our highest priority is ensuring the safety of everyone at this university, and we can and will impose limits on time, place and manner of a speaking engagement to protect the safety of our U-M community. If we cannot assure a reasonably safe setting for the event, we will not allow it to go forward.
Only if we do feel we can assure a reasonably safe setting will we set a specific date and location of the event.
Did the university invite him to campus?
U-M has not invited this individual to our campus, nor is anyone in our community sponsoring him. His representatives made a request to rent publicly available space on our campus for him to speak.
How can the university keep the community safe if he speaks on campus?
The physical safety of our community is our No. 1 priority, and we will continue to rely on a thorough assessment of safety considerations by our Division of Public Safety and Security.
If we cannot assure a reasonably safe venue for the event we will not allow the event to go forward.
The law permits us to impose limits on the time, place and manner of speech in order to assure the safety of our community.
Why didn’t U-M refuse to allow him on campus and wait to be sued, as others did?
Each institution needs to make its own safety assessment based on its own environment, facilities, capabilities and the surrounding circumstances at the time the request is made.
As a public university, the law and our commitment to free speech forbid us from declining a speaker based on the presumed content of speech. But we can and will impose limits on time, place and manner of a speaking engagement to protect the safety of our U-M community. If we cannot assure a reasonably safe setting for the event, we will not allow it to go forward.
What is the university’s commitment to free speech?
Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our democratic nation and it is bedrock principle of our academic community.
It is our affirmative duty to uphold the constitution. Free speech is essential to our pursuit of truth and knowledge as an institution of higher education.
The university has a long-standing policy on free speech that says, in part: “Expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance, not only for those who espouse a cause or position and then defend it, but also for those who hear and pass judgment on that defense. The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, or in any other way detestable cannot be grounds for its suppression.”
The policy is grounded in the First Amendment, which we have an obligation to uphold as a public university. The policy can be found here: http://spg.umich.edu/policy/601.01.
Does the university support the views of Mr. Spencer?
Absolutely not. We detest hateful speech espousing white supremacy. Richard Spencer’s racist, anti-Semitic and other bigoted views are repugnant. We are offended by the way he hides behind America’s great freedoms to draw attention to himself by demeaning and diminishing others.
His ideology is completely counter to our values as a university and should be wholly rejected and denounced by our community. U-M stands for the equality of all people.
Will the university pay for extra security measures?
The safety of our community is our highest priority. We will take all appropriate measures to maintain the safety at this event if it occurs.
What are the costs associated with this event?
It is too early to say. We will not have an accurate assessment of the costs associated with this event until more detailed information is known. At this point, we do not know whether it will occur.
Will the university host alternative events for the campus community?
Yes. There are a number of ideas being pursued among student, faculty and staff across the campus and we want to involve our community in the development of those alternative events. We will share more details as they become available.
What campus resources are available to me?
Our Counseling and Psychological Services office, Faculty and Staff Assistance Program and Center for Research on Learning and Teaching are always available to provide support to community members who need resources.
When requesting a venue for a speaker, does the individual (or group) requesting need to have an association with the university?
Many U-M venues are available for rental by the public. General guidelines and policies can be found here: http://fo.umich.edu/pdf/Facility_Space_Use_Guidelines.pdf.
What other high-profile speakers have been on campus?
In recent years, a number of high-profile speakers have been on our campus. You can see a listing here.