6 UM regents stress safety concerns over Spencer

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

As University of Michigan faces a deadline to set a date for white supremacist Richard Spencer to speak at the Ann Arbor school, six of the eight members of the Board of Regents released a statement Wednesday saying that the school’s “first concern” in considering his request is campus safety.

“Our Michigan community stands united against hate; no outsider can change our values or divide us,” the statement said. “We are a university community that does not always agree with each other. But we do have shared values that we strive to live up to each day, including respect, inclusion and care for each other. We value diversity and equity, and embrace our differences. We believe in free speech, and peaceful disagreement.”

The statement continued, says the university is still discussing if the campus can safely host a speaker whose views are “vile”

“We don’t know yet the outcome of those discussions, but it is essential, if we move forward, to have as much control as possible about the time, place and manner of such an event. Our first concern is the physical safety of our community.”

“We condemn Spencer’s abhorrent and vile views. We do so together as Regents: Whatever our differences of party, religion, gender, race, or national origin, we stand united in our condemnation of the evil of what Spencer and his ilk espouse.”

The statement ended with an acknowledgement of the importance of a place for faculty, staff and students who want to peacefully protest or ignore Spencer.

“And it’s critical that we stand united in our support for each other and our shared and common values against hate.”

The statement was signed by Regents Michael Behm, Mark Bernstein, Denise Ilitch, Andrea Fischer Newman, Andrew Richner and Ron Weiser.

Regents who did not sign the statement were Shauna Ryder Diggs and Katherine White.

The statement comes following weeks of university discussion and pushback from students after a representative for Spencer asked UM in October to let him speak on campus. Officials offered a few dates last month and this month, but they did not work for Spencer.

Meanwhile, students have been protesting the school’s effort to accommodate Spencer, saying someone like him should not be given a platform to promote his beliefs because they clash with the university’s values. They also said the university should dare Spencer to sue.

UM President Mark Schlissel also addressed the issue before the Detroit Economic Club earlier this week, saying that he didn’t want the university to get sued, lose and then make Spencer a hero in his community. But he also said the university needs to find a way to ensure campus safety if Spencer appears at UM.

Meanwhile, Clinton Township attorney Kyle J. Bristow, who represents Spencer, said UM must give an answer by Jan. 15.