University of Cincinnati to make decision on white supremacist speaker Richard Spencer

CINCINNATI — The University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees is expected to make a decision Thursday on whether they’ll allow a white supremacist to speak on campus.

White supremacist Richard Spencer will either make an October appearance at the University of Cincinnati or sue it for violating his First Amendment rights, lawyer Kyle Bristow said last month.

But the school isn’t sure that it’s safe to have him.

UC spokesman Greg Vehr said in September the university had not entered into a contract with Spencer and would assess “various safety and logistical considerations” related to the possible visit.

Spencer organized the Charlottesville, Virginia white supremacist rally that ended with the death of anti-white supremacist protester Heather Heyer. He has previously been rejected by Texas A&M, the University of Florida and Ohio State on grounds of ensuring student safety.

While UC student Kyra Watkins doesn’t agree with Spencer’s ideals, she said she thinks the school should accommodate him if they can safely do so.

“Unsettling for personal accounts but I am a believer of the First Amendment … as long as the university can adequately maintain the protection of students, protesters and those who are going to the rally then logistically there’s nothing I can say against it,” Watkins said.

Other campus groups have made it clear that Spencer is not welcome. 

The University of Cincinnati College Republicans confirmed they had not invited him.

“We have no relationship with Mr. Spencer and have zero interest in inviting him to our campus to speak,” the organization’s executive board wrote on Facebook. “The University of Cincinnati College Republicans believe in an inclusive and respectful environment in which to promote conservative values on campus. Mr. Spencer and the alt-right do not share those values.”

Still, Bristow said Spencer has a First Amendment right to appear and share his message despite the resistance of any segment of the administration or student body. Any public university that chooses not to host him will be sued.

Bristow emphasized his commitment to pursuing legal action by sharing a motion he filed against Michigan State University, which in early September cited safety concerns in rejecting a request for Spencer to appear.

“It is alarming that, in the United States of America, where citizens are guaranteed the right to freedom of speech, that governmental actors are now coddling and catering to these antifa terrorists, and that’s exactly what they are. They are trying to use force and threaten force to infringe on the rights of others, and we’re not standing for that,” Bristow said.

Bristow is also a white supremacist. Both he and Spencer have been profiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center; in his own college years, he denounced interracial and same-sex relationships as abberrant because neither produces white children.

WCPO Web Editor Sarah Walsh contributed to this report.