By Herald Staff
The University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees debated behind closed doors for hours October 12 before announcing they planned to allow White nationalist Richard Spencer speak on campus in October after his lawyer Kyle Bristow said banning Spencer from speaking at the University would violate his First Amendment rights and he would sue.
Spencer is president of the National Policy Institute, a White supremacist think tank, as well as Washington Summit Publishers.
Spencer helped organize the Charlottesville, Virginia, White supremacist rally that ended with the death of anti-White supremacist protester Heather Heyer. His speaking engagements had previously been rejected by Texas A&M, the University of Florida and Ohio State on grounds of ensuring student safety; similar legal threats to the ones he has made to UC prompted UF to reconsider and grant him a platform for Oct. 19.
Following the UC Board decision, UC President Dr. Neville Pinto said is a statement to the University community that the University of Cincinnati will uphold the First Amendment and allow Richard Spencer to speak on campus, with the date and details being finalized.
“As a state institution, we must adhere to the foundational rights embedded in the First Amendment,’’ Pinto stated. “That includes protecting speech of all types at all times—even, perhaps especially, words that are blatantly hateful or offensive. After all, we cannot silence those with whom we disagree without opening the doors to our own voices being silenced by those who disagree with us.
He made it clear that Spencer was not invited by any student, faculty or staff group affiliated with UC. “In fact, countless members of our community have courageously pointed out that his ideology of hate and exclusion is antithetical to the core values of a civil society and an academic community. I stand with you in condemning dehumanizing views and racist practices,’’ he explained.
The University will make safety and security a top priority during Spencer’s visit, he said.
“While other public universities, presidents have asked their constituents to steer clear of such events, attempting to deny these attention seekers the spotlight they so desperately desire, how you engage with Spencer’s event is your decision to make, and I will respect and support whatever civil and peaceful course you take,’’ he said.
Pinto did ask the UC community to reflect on what makes our learning community so extraordinary. “For me, that competitive edge is our diversity—of backgrounds and beliefs, of identities and ideas, of perspectives and pathways. And no doubt it is the power and promise of that diversity to change the world for the better that has the hate-filled so unsettled,’’ he said.
He also extended a message of support to members of the UC community who feel targeted directly by Spencer. “His hate only makes our love for you stronger. You are the reason this university is a first-class destination for the best and the brightest. Your difference is our strength, our pride, our purpose,’’ he added.
“Let’s seize this opportunity to live into action the values of inclusion, respect, responsibility and dignity that we all hold dear,’’ he said.
Various groups, including representatives from Black Lives Matter Cincinnati and the AMOS interfaith group, held a rally on campus Saturday in opposition to Spencer speaking on the campus.