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White supremacist Richard Spencer to speak at Michigan State University

Richard Spencer
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Richard Spencer will speak March 5 at Michigan State University.

Richard Spencer, leader of the white supremacist National Policy Institute, will be allowed to speak at Michigan State University after all.

Spencer submitted a request to speak at MSU last summer, which the university initially agreed to. But after the request went public, the public outrage lead Michigan State to reverse its decision.

Attorney Kyle Bristow filed a lawsuit against MSU in federal court, claiming that Spencer's free speech rights were being infringed upon. The agreement announced Thursday came from a settlement of that lawsuit.

Spencer will speak on March 5, the first day of Michigan State's spring break, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium in the Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education.

The agreement stipulates that while Spencer's group will pay $1,650 for the rental, MSU is financially responsible for any police and security costs. MSU will set up a ticketing process for the event and control entry to the event.

NPI will provide insurance for the event, and will not hold any other gathering or event at MSU.

Attorney Kyle Bristow told the Detroit Free Press, "This is a resounding First Amendment victory for the alt-right. Left-wing censorship of right-wing ideas in academia is unacceptable. Richard Spencer gets to speak and MSU gets to pay.”

Spencer has submitted a similar request at the University of Michigan. President Mark Schlissel announced in November that the U of M will negotiate with Spencer to find a safe way for him to speak on campus.

Update: Thursday, January 18 at 2:00 p.m.

MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon has released the following statement:

"Last fall, a white nationalist group sought to hold an event at MSU shortly after tragic violence at a rally in Charlottesville, Va. We declined to allow the event at that time, not because of their hateful views, but because public safety is our first obligation.
Michigan State is wholly dedicated to freedom of speech, not just as a public institution, but as an institution of higher education. Here, ideas—not people—are meant to clash and to be evaluated based on their merits. As I noted in a long-standing statement on freedom of speech, “Without this freedom, effective sifting and testing of ideas cease, and research, teaching, and learning are stifled.”
So this week, MSU agreed to allow the group to hold an event, during spring break, at the MSU Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education on March 5, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. 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. 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."

Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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