Texas A&M University changes campus speaker policy over Richard Spencer visit

White supremacist speaks at Texas A&M
White supremacist speaks at Texas A&M

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  • Future speakers at university spaces will have to be sponsored by recognized campus organizations
  • University officials are concerned about fringe and hate groups descending on campuses for the purpose of disruption

(CNN)Texas A&M University is changing its policy on who can speak at campus facilities following a controversial speech last year by white supremacist Richard Spencer.

Spencer was invited to campus December 7 by a private Texas citizen who rented out the space for the event. But protests erupted by students angry that he was allowed to speak at their campus.
    This policy change would mean that future speakers would have to have on-campus sponsorship by a recognized organization for external speakers.
    A&M spokeswoman Amy Smith said university officials are concerned about fringe and hate groups descending on campuses for the purpose of disruption.
    "As one of the stewards for protecting and enhancing the brand, this is particularly troubling to me as the influx of these outside groups may connote to your viewers an environment of acceptance by our campus when none are actually our students or faculty," Smith said.
    "Even with on-campus speaker requirements, however, there are yet still common areas of campuses outside of building facilities that could be considered open public space, as throughout our country, where some could gather to espouse their views," she added.
    Since Spencer's speech in December at the university, controversial speakers have sparked protests at many different campuses, sparking debates about freedom of speech.
    Smith said that A&M President Michael Young has been contacted by several other universities in similar situations for "lessons learned," particularly about handling security and counterevents.
    "...we are trying to protect the integrity of our university, the focus of our students, all while maintaining the tenets of freedom of expression and ensuring that we keep students and others out of way of harm," she said.