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OPINION: MSU is wrong to deny white supremacist Richard Spencer his right to speak


Free speech is the core of our country. 

Publicly stating your beliefs, having different opinions and being able to dissent without being thrown in jail are vital to all other American freedoms.

Even if your beliefs are repugnant, you still have every right to share them.

Michigan State University has denied white supremacist Richard Spencer the right to speak on its campus. This move resulted in a lawsuit brought by Spencer arguing that MSU has violated his right to freedom of speech. The university has countered by calling Spencer’s visit an imminent threat to campus, citing security as a reason to stop him.

Unfortunately for decent minded people, the lawsuit is correct: his rights have been violated.

There will always be the threat of violence with someone as controversial as Spencer. Safety should always be a factor of concern and MSU has a duty to ensure the safety of its campus. There is no doubt that with something like this, providing safety costs money and that can make a compelling argument.

That is until you look at other speakers MSU has invited to its campus.

In 2016, former President Barack Obama gave the commencement speech at Rutgers University. This speech cost $1.43 million, according to the Associated Press. Much of the costs were for additional police officers, added safety measures and road closures. 

But that was in New Brunswick, New Jersey and MSU is in Lansing.

In 2014, Obama visited MSU to sign a major bill. 

MSU never had a problem providing security or the additional costs that came with hosting the president. There is no official number for how much Obama’s visit to MSU cost, but most sources put the costs at about the same or greater than at Rutgers.

How is it more expensive to provide security for a white supremacist than it is to protect a president?

Certainly, Lansing can get additional police forces. Fences can even be put up between Spencer’s supporters and protesters. City blocks can be closed to separate the protesters and white supremacists.

There are so many ways MSU can keep the peace. Denying Spencer his freedom of speech is not one of them.

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, even if there are monetary costs. We must accept the security costs to allow everyone the right to speak. This is the price we pay to live in a country where we can freely speak our minds.

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, even if you’re a racist. Allowing a racist to speak in public is one of the burdens we carry. If we are to truly have freedom of speech, racists and white supremacists should be allowed to speak.

Spencer is vile, divisive and racist. He believes minorities are lesser than white Americans. He espouses pseudoscience to try to prove his white supremacist views. He uses clever word play to disguise his primitive thinking. 

Disgusting and hateful as his views may be, they are politically protected speech.