Refuse Richard Spencer's Request to Speak at the University of Michigan
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President Schlissel and the Board of Regents,
We are petitioning in regards to Richard Spencer’s request to speak on campus. As students, alumni, faculty, and staff of the University, we are appalled by the idea that someone who openly identifies as a white nationalist could find a platform at this University, and strongly oppose his request to speak here.
We understand that the University must abide to the 1st Amendment and allow everyone their freedom of speech. However, there is a clear line between free speech and hate speech that Spencer is perpetually across. His sentiments include advocating for a White-Ethno State through “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” While this may seem like Spencer exercising his 1st Amendment rights, it is far more than that. These pervasive sentiments, expressed to his millions of supporters, serve to empower the same groups who wrote the n-word on West Quad doors, spray painted “Free Dylann Roof” on downtown buildings, and posted flyers claiming Black intellectual inferiority to white people. On a macro level, they were the driving forces behind slavery and the Holocaust - and one of the core reasons why the systematic and institutional oppressions of racism have been upheld and propagated for so long. If you choose to ignore this history, and allow him to speak, you are only aiding this system.
The current statement by the university, from Rick Fitzgerald, is that "the university will carefully consider this request, paying close attention to the safety and security of our community.” Spencer has a very public track record, and clear oppressive views that he is willing to, and has, acted on in cities like Charlottesville and Gainesville. If the safety and security of our community is being centered, then there should be no question in regards to him not being welcome at the University.
We urge you to show support for people of color, queer, trans, immigrant, disabled, Indigenous, Black, Muslim, and Jewish community members who are the targets of Spencer’s white supremacist platform. If you cared about these marginalized community members, you would deny his request, as well as explicitly state and show us that this campus is actively taking steps to fight white supremacy.
As you’ve stated, “racism and bigotry in all its forms have no place at the University of Michigan. I denounce these and any expressions of hate at our university." Yet, for 200 years, this University has allowed racist incidents to occur on this campus without consequence.
If we truly want to be the ‘Leaders & Best,’ we would follow in the footsteps of Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Louisiana State University, and say NO to Spencer’s request.
If you truly want racism to have no place on this campus, someone who is lauded by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and other extremist, racist groups should likewise have no place at UofM to spread his harmful ideologies.
(Original text from students, Gabe Coleman and Hoai An Pham)
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