Ohio State to decide on white supremacist’s speaking request this week

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Ohio State to decide on white supremacist’s speaking request this week

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FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2016, file photo, Richard Spencer attends a white nationalist and Alt-right conference in Washington. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via AP)

Ohio State University is set to make a final decision this week on whether it will allow a prominent white supremacist to speak on campus.

In September, Richard Spencer, president of the white supremacist think tank the National Policy Institute, was denied space to speak on campus this fall, the university said. But, after an attorney for Spencer threatened to file a lawsuit, Ohio State officials said they would consider alternatives for the request.

OSU senior vice president and general counsel Christopher Culley sent a letter to Spencer’s attorney notifying him of ongoing deliberations at the university. Kyle Bristow, an attorney who describes himself as a member of the “alt-right,” has threatened to file lawsuits against Ohio State if the university did not allow Spencer space to speak.

“The university has reviewed this request and has determined that this request cannot be accommodated without substantial risk to public safety,” OSU’s Culley wrote in an Oct. 13 letter to Bristow. “However, the university is currently considering other alternatives.”

In the letter, Culley told Bristow that Ohio State officials would be in touch by the end of this week on a final decision. Besides releasing the letter, an Ohio State spokesman said officials have declined to comment further at this time.

A representative for Spencer had originally requested rental space for the white supremacist to speak at Ohio State between Oct. 12 and Oct. 26. Ohio State cited safety concerns in its original denial of the request, issued last month.

Bristow had also threatened to file a lawsuit against the University of Cincinnati but on Friday, UC president Neville Pinto sent out a campus-wide email stating that Spencer would be allowed to visit.

“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,” Pinto wrote. “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.”

Spencer is also known as having been one of the organizers of August’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville that descended into violence.

He has been denied requests for space to speak at Penn State University, the University of Florida and at Michigan State University. After Michigan State denied Spencer’s speaking request, his event organizer filed a lawsuit against the school in United States District Court

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