Faculty, students consider possibility of controversial speakers on campus

Breanna Francis, Reporter

What if a Marshall University organization invited a representative of the Ku Klux Klan to come speak to students? In light of recent events across the nation, students and school officials at Marshall University are forced to consider this possibility.

With racial tension on the rise, in places such as Charlottesville and Denver, Marshall University staff and students are being faced with the possibility of controversial groups coming to speak on campus from extremes of the entire political spectrum.

“The message, obviously, matters to me,” assistant dean of student affairs Matt James said. “I clearly would not support a group coming on to campus that is going to spout hate speech or somehow intentionally divide students. But I think when talking about especially political issues, what’s controversial to you may not be controversial to me so we don’t want to put a certain level of censorship in place when we are not allowing students to have these critical conversations.”

However, with the rise in hate speech coming from such extreme groups as the Ku Klux Klan, people are beginning to question where free speech becomes hate speech and whether or not that should be represented on Marshall’s campus.

Across the nation, the consequences of having such extreme beliefs represented has ended in violent altercations and has put much of the public in danger. This has caused greater concerns for students when considering having such visitors to the university, as shown in reports from media outlets covering the Charlottesville riots.

“We should give a platform to both, not agreeing with either, but allowing for an open discussion,” senior music education major Heather Taylor said. “But they must be more about informing rather than recruitment, and the university must be ready to take precautions to ensure student safety.”

Aside from open conversations at Marshall University, the topic of controversial speakers’ place on college campuses is being discussed further in this year’s Dan O’Hanlon Essay Contest ending Sept. 1. The first place prize is $1,000 and second place prize is $500.  Students interested in the contest can get more information from Patricia Proctor in her office, Old Main room 314. Proctor said entrants should submit essays to her email address, [email protected].

Breanna Francis can be contacted at [email protected].