MISSOULA – Demonstrators stood on the sidewalks of the University of Montana campus while using their voices in protest against a controversial right-wing lecturer, who spoke at the Dennison Theater on Tuesday evening.
Mike Adams, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, often targets members of the LGBT community, Muslims and feminists in his column.
Adams was invited to speak at UM’s tenth annual Jeff Cole Distinguished Lecture. Adams is a writer for townhall.com, a conservative website, and many of his columns often target LGBT people, Muslims and feminists and he has described transgender people as mentally ill.
“This is just one person with hateful rhetoric…misinformed views about a lot of things. This is just one person. The problem here is with the university. The fact the university is giving opportunities to these kinds of voices is really damaging to current students, future students and alumni,” said student Alhan Diaz.
While there were many protesters on campus, there were also supporters of Adams’ views
“The reason it’s important is because especially in public higher education there is a demand for diversity in opinion and viewpoints to be brought up – if not accepted – so regardless of the fact the university doesn’t support the content behind the message it has an obligation specifically publicly funded university to offer as many different theories (and) viewpoints as possible,” said Young Americans for Liberty President Ethan Holmes.
During the speech, Adams spoke about “The Death of Liberal Bias in Higher Education” and was met with protestors inside the venue as well.
Due to the large controversy surrounding this lecturer and the number of demonstrators outside the event, UM Police increased security.
“In addition to having more officers present to respond we also have a canine sweep the area for any potential threats. Just having a larger visible presence and just communication with other agencies in case things should escalate,” said UM Police Department Cpt. Ben Gladwin.
It wasn’t just UM Police that boosted safety measures. Adams tweeted out he even had his own bodyguard.
At the center of the controversy was the debate between freedom of speech versus hate.
UM President Seth Bodnar said in a letter issued to the campus community that, “what a speaker says may define him or her, but it does not define us. It is possible for us to stand firmly in support of free speech while also standing firm in our values.”