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Dispute between Michigan State and a White Nationalist Group Heads to Mediation

Monday, November, 13, 2017

The dispute concerning free speech rights between white nationalist speaker Richard Spencer and Michigan State University is heading to mediation.  The hope is that the mediator will resolve the dispute so it does not need to be settled in a courtroom.


Spencer wanted to speak on the campus of Michigan State University, but the school refused to rent an organizer of the event a space.  The school was sued after its refusal.  According to the school, it refused the request because there were concerns about public safety.  The school claims its concerns are in light of recent violence that occurred after a similar event in Charlottesville, VA.  The refusal was the school’s attempt to avoid a copycat incident.


In response to the lawsuit, Federal Judge Janet Neff ordered the event organizer, Cameron Padgett, and Michigan State University to choose a mediator to help them resolve the dispute.  The judge wants things settled by November 17, and also set a deadline for Padgett’s request for a preliminary injunction.  That injunction accuses the school of violating free speech rights.


Richard Spencer is the public figure who popularized the term “alt right” which refers to a fringe movement of people who are considered white nationalists, white supremacists, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigration.  The loosely organized group received a great deal of attention leading up to the 2016 US Presidential election and were outspoken supporters of then presidential candidate Donald Trump.


The violence in Charlottesville and potential for violence at the University of Michigan has sparked a great deal of debate over speakers at colleges and universities across the country.