A Big Ten school took on an “alt-right” leader and said “no” to his request to come talk. Now it’s being hauled into court.
No, it isn’t Penn State. It’s Michigan State.
The Spartans beat the Nittany Lions to the punch on the issue by five days. On Aug. 22, Penn State President Eric Barron told white nationalist Richard Spencer he was not welcome to speak at the university, but on Aug. 17, Lou Anna Simon, the president of Michigan State, delivered a similar message to the same man.
“After consultation with law enforcement officials, Michigan State University has decided to deny the National Policy Institute’s request to rent space on campus to accommodate a speaker. This decision was made due to significant concerns about public safety in the wake of the tragic violence in Charlottesville last weekend,” MSU said in a statement that day.
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Georgia resident and Georgia State senior Cameron Padgett is now suing Simon and her trustees for that decision.
Padgett is a self-described “identitarian” who has “Eurocentric political ideology, which advocates the preservation of national identity and a return to traditional Western values.”
“Although plaintiff does not consider himself “alt-right,” plaintiff is a supporter of Spencer and plaintiff is the organizer of Spencer’s collegiate speaking tour,” the suit filed Sunday in U.S. District Court in Michigan read.
Padgett’s suit calls Spencer, the “figurehead” of the National Policy Institute, “arguably the foremost advocate for ‘alt-right’ philosophy in the world and is rapidly becoming a major figure in contemporary American politics.”
A similar situation came up with Auburn in April. The difference there was that the university had entered into a contract with Spencer, who also provided a $2 million insurance policy and paid for additional security, according to court records. A federal judge sided with Padgett and the April 18 speech forward as planned. The suit was subsequently dismissed in May.
Padgett submitted his request to use Kellogg Hotel for Spencer’s speech in July, about three weeks before the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly when an “alt-right” demonstrator drove a vehicle into a crowd of counterprotesters, injuring 19 people and killing Heather Heyer, 32.
Five days after the clash, MSU turned down the request.
Penn State followed behind, with Barron citing the same safety concerns.
“I disagree profoundly with the content that has been presented publicly about this speaker’s views, which are abhorrent and contradictory to our university’s values. There is no place for hatred, bigotry or racism in our society and on our campuses,” he said.
University spokeswoman Lisa Powers said the administration is unaware of any similar litigation proposed for Penn State. LSU, the University of Florida and the University of North Carolina have also turned away Spencer’s speaking engagements.