White supremacist and outspoken “alt-right” leader Richard Spencer was denied speaking space on the University of Michigan’s campus this semester, according to the university’s official statement.
However, the U of M has not ruled out the possibility of Spencer speaking on campus later in the year and the ultra-conservative leader has already rented space to deliver a speech at Michigan State University in March.
Both schools have faced strong opposition from students who loudly oppose Spencer’s ideology and are actively protesting his campus appearances.
Spencer rejected the term “white nationalist,” instead labeling himself as a proponent of an “ethnostate for a dispossessed white race” and has called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”
In 2017, Spencer cancelled a University of California Berkeley event after an elevated number of protests drew safety concerns. The protesters were lambasted by conservative media for obstructing the First Amendment and Spencer’s freedom of speech.
Chaplinsky vs. The State of New Hampshire defined by the Supreme Court in 1942 is the first of several cases that may shine some light on the situation, in the form of the “Fighting Words” rulings. The court’s verdict was as follows:
“(Fighting Words) …By their very utterance, inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.”
The mere fact that Spencer emulates Nazi Party propaganda and has on multiple occasions denounced the Jewish faith goes far beyond the cause behind the indictment handed out to Walter Chaplinsky, who was detailed for verbally insulting his town marshal.
Most Alma students are familiar with the section of the Student Handbook. As of Jan. 10 2018, the handbook stated:
“The Alma College Mission Statement asserts that the purpose of the institution is to seek the liberation of people from ignorance, prejudice, and parochialism…Spoken, written or symbolic harassment occurs when people insult, stigmatize or denigrate individuals or groups on the basis of race, religion, creed, national origin, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age or physical ability.”
Spencer not only advocates for a North American with ethno-state, but uses the chant “Hail Victory” with his supporters to promote the white race, a clear translation of the German “Sieg Heil,” used by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.
Actions and behaviors like this are not only in clear violation of Alma College’s policies but sections 2.01, 2.06 and 2.04 of the Spartan Student Life Handbook. More importantly, Spencer is in violation of Section 750.147b of the Michigan Ethnic Intimidation statute, which forbids harassment based on race.
In accordance to the Alma College Mission Statement the Diversity and Inclusion office has taken steps to creating a much more inclusive, understanding and non-judgmental campus through the implementation of Safe Zones, where students can speak to members without fear or harassment and with understanding.
Currently the program is focused on Alma’s LGBTQ+ community, although the concept in general was met with criticism by the conservative right, who compared college students to babies unable to comprehend adult issues outside of their bubbles.
With all of that in mind, some internet users have found it ironic that the same right-wing individuls mocking college students for being sensitive have been vocally livid over Starbucks cups that didn’t have the phrase “Merry Christmas” printed on the outside and boycotted Star Wars XII over John Boyega’s role as a black stormtrooper.
In accordance to Alma College’s mission statement, it is unlikely that advocates such as Spencer will a be allowed to speak on campus.