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An alt-right speaker will be allowed to speak at the University of Cincinnati, the school announced Friday.
A request was made for white supremacist Richard Spencer to speak on campus and a lawsuit was threatened if Spencer was not allowed. Through the day, University lawyers have been wading into the legal waters of ensuring public safety while not trampling upon the right of free expression.
"As a state institution, we must adhere to the foundational rights embedded in the First Amendment. That includes protecting speech of all types at all times—even, perhaps especially, words that are blatantly hateful or offensive," the university wrote in a statement to students and staff. "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."
The same issues confronted the University of Florida, which initially refused to permit Spencer to speak but has now relented. He has a two-hour event scheduled next Thursday afternoon, Oct. 19 at the Gainesville campus.
Among the security questions facing UC: How many alt-right demonstrators would join Spencer? How would counter-protestors be kept separate from them? And in an inflamed, open-carry environment, what size of police presence would be needed?
All week, those in charge of the campus with a student population topping 44,000 have zeroed in on the safety aspect of the Spencer situation.
He's the super-heated white supremacist known for organizing the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally that took a deadly turn.
An out-of-state student wants to rent space inside Tangeman Center for Spencer to speak.
We spoke today with student workers at the African American Cultural and Resource Center.
It's promoted as a safe space for campus minorities to turn to.
"If Spencer does come to campus, we will probably see a lot more people come to the center to express how they feel," noted Ciara Cruder.
The overriding concern at the AACRC involves safety.
And while the overwhelmingly campus sentiment is running against giving Spencer a forum, the worry at the Center is rooted in historical examples of racial division.
"This is a very racially heated city", observed Nyirah Jackson. "It's something that we mask, but a lot of racial tension has happened here in Cincinnati and I guess it's with the place."
University trustees met privately on Thursday to discuss free speech and public safety with their lawyers.
Justin Reutter who edits the UC News Record told us he has solicited the opinion of many students.
"I would say overwhelmingly no one really wants him here, white or black."
Many students here are learning how words, even hateful ones, are protected legally by the courts.
There's a high standard for expression that directly incites violence.
Spencer has put UC in an awkward spot.
Associate professor Jeff Blevins heads UC's Department of Journalism and recommends against allowing Spencer to cast himself as a victim.
Blevins said to take a look at the quad or any number of other open, green public spaces and consider how Spencer could simply show up unannounced and hold forth.
"He wants to be able to claim censorship and wants to be a victim in this case," stated Blevins.
The specter of the violence in Charlottesville lingers.
Beyond anything else, how to prevent a recurrenceis what occupies those in charge of UC.
"There's definitely some concern that there will be violence whether that be by right wing people coming in from all across the country or the leftist activists," said Reutter.
Ohio is an open carry state.
The University can prevent students and staff from carrying on campus, but not visitors as long as they stay out of buildings.
According to Blevins, the weapons possibility adds a dangerous dynamic to the situation.
"Especially if that's the case where you have inflammatory speech that's going on", he said. "It does seem to be a recipe for disaster. So, this has got to be a really difficult spot for the University to be in."
If Spencer had not been given the green light to speak, attorney Kyle Bristow, who represents the student trying to rent space for the event, told us he will file a federal suit seeking a monetary judgement and an injunction against UC and Ohio State University.
He has been readying his complaint for filing this evening.
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Source : http://www.wlwt.com/article/white-supremacist-will-be-allowed-to-speak-at-the-university-of-cincinnati/12919864