How colleges decide on controversial speakers - WNEM TV 5

How colleges decide on controversial speakers

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Saginaw Valley State University Saginaw Valley State University

There is outrage at the University of Florida after white nationalist Richard Spencer spoke on campus.

Spencer is best known for leading the alt-right movement, a group many denounce as a guise for advocating for white supremacy.

Now the University of Michigan will have to deal with the controversy too.

Michigan State University declined Spencer's request to speak.

The subject matter is not the first thing that is of concern," said J.J. Boehm, Saginaw Valley State University spokesperson.

Free speech, even hate speech, is covered by the First Amendment. But when it comes to hate speech on a college campus the lines get a little blurred.

Boehm helps decided who can rent out space to speak on campus.

The first thing he considers is the cost of additional security if the subject is controversial.

"If someone is going to perhaps do something or speak on a topic that might require you to have extra security measures in place, than that is something that has to be a part of your consideration," Boehm said.

Last month Florida taxpayers paid an extra $600,000 for the security needed for Spencer to visit the University of Florida.

MSU rejected Spencer's application, but U of M is still deciding.

It's a situation Boehm said SVSU simply could not afford and is enough reason to deny rental space to controversial speakers.

Some SVSU students said free speech isn't the issue anymore. What they are more concerned with is their tuition money and their safety.

"If it were to come out of my tuition dollars I don't think that I'd be very happy with that just because that's not what I'm putting my money towards," said Indigo Dudley, SVSU student.

As for Boehm, he said education and safety will always be SVSU's main concern.

"We want students to be exposed to a wide range of ideas, even ideas that might make them feel uncomfortable. That being said, we also understand that students do have a right to be able to come and go peacefully and make sure that they are safe and secure on their campus," Boehm said.

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