Statement from the Lecturers’ Employee Organization on Richard Spencer’s Request to Speak at the University of Michigan
On behalf of LEO, we condemn Richard Spencer’s politics of hatred and we call on the University of Michigan to deny his request to speak on our campus. Spencer’s presence at this university would be an affront to lecturer faculty as scholars, thinkers, and writers. A university platform is always, however subtly, an endorsement—not of the content of a person’s ideas, but of that person’s underlying intellectual seriousness.
Universities do not typically rent space to local chapters of the Flat Earth Society, for example. Richard Spencer is of a far more intellectually disingenuous brand. He has no standing as an academic. His racist worldview is rooted in ideas that soberer minds have debunked in every conceivable way—scientifically, methodologically, historically, and philosophically. There is no scholarly conversation to which his presence on this campus can contribute.
Spencer’s presence at this university would be an affront to lecturer faculty as mentors to and advocates for our students. He directly threatens the physical safety of our staff and students. His recent appearance at University of Florida-Gainesville resulted in five reported injuries at the site of the event and an attempted murder one mile from the site of the event by out-of-town Spencer followers. In a time when Michigan’s local politics are increasingly blighted by the presence of armed white supremacist militias, and on a campus that is a known organizing site for Identity Evropa and other hate groups, Spencer’s presence could easily result in the injury or death of our students.
Spencer’s presence at this university would be an affront to lecturer faculty as workers. On this issue, we cannot put the matter better than our fellow worker Zoe Proegler, a senior at Michigan: Students of color and lower socioeconomic status are represented at a significantly higher rate amongst Union employees than the student body as a whole. We are a hard-working and dedicated group of people, but the idea that we (or our permanent staff supervisors, for that matter) would be made to help facilitate a prospective speech by Richard Spencer is seen as a personal indignity by myself and many of my coworkers. … [B]eing asked to literally amplify Nazi and white nationalist speech is not something I feel I am capable of doing in good faith to my community. It's not something I'd like any of my colleagues to be asked to do. … [M]any of us are left questioning whether it will be safe to come to work on the day of the prospective event.
Spencer’s presence at this university would be an affront to the very idea of public education. Most fundamentally, Richard Spencer—his ideas, his methods, his career, the very person he has thus far chosen to become—are a direct insult to the values that a public university depends upon for its very existence. Every time we walk into our classrooms, we make the implicit assumption that every one of our students—including our students of color, our Muslim and Jewish students, our LGBTQ+ students—has a right to be there. Every time we conduct a class discussion, we assume that all our students have a right to contribute to it. Every time Richard Spencer opens his mouth in public, he implicitly or explicitly says otherwise.
Richard Spencer threatens our students’ safety and insults our shared enterprise as public educators. We strongly urge that the University of Michigan deny his request.
Phil Christman and Shelley Manis
LEO Ann Arbor Co-Chairs