The University of Cincinnati might not be in the Big Ten, but it has something in common with Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan State.
They are the four schools that have been sued for not letting alt-right leader Richard Spencer speak on campus.
Actually, while the Big Ten schools are all named as institutions along with others, University of Cincinnati President Neville Pinto is being sued individually.
Cameron Padgett is the plaintiff, the same man who notes himself as a Georgia State student in the paperwork for the other suits. He says he “subscribes to identitarian philosophy” and that he has “organized a number of events at college campuses at which Spencer” and other alt-right activists speak.
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Spencer is the president and creative director of the National Policy Institute, a group that Padgett calls a think tank. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls it a white nationalist hate group.
In August, Spencer was part of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., where activists marched through the University of Virginia campus with torches and one counterprotester was killed and others were injured when an alt-right Ohio man drove a vehicle into the crowd.
Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan State were approached for appearances by Spencer. All turned him down, but MSU on Thursday agreed to let Spencer speak on campus in March.
“There is no place for hatred, bigotry or racism in our society and on our campuses,” Penn State President Eric Barron said.
In September, Padgett asked UC for space for Spencer to speak. According to his lawsuit, Padgett asked for one space but was told that was owned by another entity, however, another venue was possibly available.
“The speaker Richard Spencer is controversial so I wanted to be clear on that,” Padgett said in an email to a university employee on Sept. 26.
On Oct. 2, a different employe replied, saying UC was “assessing safety and logistical considerations.”
Penn State was sued in October but has not responded to Padgett’s suit in court yet. However, Barron did address the “risk of imminent violence” in a statement. Ohio State and Michigan State have both cited safety concerns in their court papers.
Padgett did win a similar case against Auburn in 2017.
Last week, an Ohio State reservations specialist was dropped as a defendant in that case.
Documents filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan show a joint stipulation in the Michigan State case that it is “dismissed with prejudice,” meaning it cannot be refiled. The two sides had been working toward mediation since November.
According to the terms of the settlement, Michigan State will pay Padgett’s attorney $27,400 and rent him a venue for $1,650. Padgett will secure liability insurance for the event capped at $1 million per incident and $2 million in total.
An event will be held over spring break on March 5.
“This agreement was based on the university’s requirement that the event occur on a date and at a venue that minimizes the risk of violence or disruption to campus. The security of our campus community remains our top priority and all appropriate security measures will be taken in connection with the event,” President Lou Anna Simon said in a statement.
“Michigan State rejects this group’s divisive and racist messages and remains committed to maintaining a diverse campus and supporting an inclusive, just and democratic society,” she said.
Padgett’s attorney, Kyle Bristow, was not available for comment.