Prominent — or infamous — American white supremacist and National Policy Institute President Richard B. Spencer will not speak at Penn State this fall after his request was denied by President Eric Barron in a letter earlier Tuesday morning.
The letter references the violence that occurred in Charlottesville last week and universally condemns Spencer’s controversial views — views Barron sees as “abhorrent and contradictory to our University’s values.” Barron also highlighted the primary reasoning behind the decision. “It is the likelihood of disruption and violence, not the content, however odious, that drives our decision.”
Here’s Barron’s letter in its entirety:
In light of the recent violence and tragedy in Charlottesville, Penn State has evaluated a request for Richard Spencer, who is president of the National Policy Institute, to speak on the University Park campus this fall.
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.
As stated last week, Penn State is an institution of higher education, and fully supports the right of free speech and encourages its expression in thoughtful and respectful ways, even when we strongly disagree with the opinions expressed. But the First Amendment does not require our University to risk imminent violence.
After critical assessment by campus police, in consultation with state and federal law enforcement officials, we have determined that Mr. Spencer is not welcome on our campus, as this event at this time presents a major security risk to students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus. It is the likelihood of disruption and violence, not the content, however odious, that drives our decision.
As we enter the new semester with a national climate of great uncertainty, Penn State continues to foster an inclusive climate for all races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, genders and other differences. Our University strives to create an environment where everyone can teach, learn and live in an atmosphere of safety and mutual respect.
Eric J. Barron
Penn State President
Spencer’s speaking events have become the center of controversy throughout campuses across the nation, with violence occasionally breaking out among supporters and protestors.
This isn’t the first time a controversial figure’s speaking arrangement fell through at Penn State. British provocateur Milo Yiannopoulus was unable to speak on campus last November after contractual snags ultimately prevented the event from taking place.
For those unable to put a face to Spencer’s name, perhaps this will help.