The alt-right movement has been gaining more and more traction within mainstream media. The current poster child for white nationalism, Richard Spencer, has held multiple talks on his ideologies at universities across the country. To refer to Spencer as controversial would be an understatement since he has made several racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic and just about every other-phobic remarks publicly without regret. He is frequently referred to as a hate speaker which is why his speeches, such as the ones at UC Berkeley or University of Florida, were heavily protested and turned violent.

The debate between whether universities should allow for radical ideologists like Richard Spencer to speak on their campuses has become a hot button issue. Reporter asked questions via an online survey posted to the RIT Reddit and Facebook to gauge student responses.

Disclaimer: Quotes were pulled from public posts on Reddit, as well as survey answers under the condition they consented to interview in the last question of the poll. Responses are from real students and do not necessarily represent the thoughts or opinions of the Reporter staff.

Where is the Line Between Controversial Speech and Actual Hate Speech?

The first question was a short essay response and left purposely vague so students could express their opinions without constraint. Although student answers varied considerably most followed these three trends:

1. “The intention. Hate speech is meant to offend,” a third year in New Media Marketing replied.

Many students defined hate speech as an derogatory or offensive language directed at a group of people, often in the form of slurs.

2.“Implied or actual incitation or condoning of violence,” fourth year in environmental science Connor MacKenzie replied.

The most popular response, many students define hate speech as the encouragement of violence against a specific group.

3.“There is no line. There is no such thing as hate speech,” third year in chemical engineering Gavin Lewis replied.

The least frequent response is that hate speech does not exist. Students replied that controversy differs too much from person to person and that labels such as “hate” limit discussion.

The Value of “Hate” Speech: The Reddit Debate

Comments on the RIT Reddit page continued the debate of what is and isn’t considered hate speech, as well as the prospect of having Richard Spencer on campus. Again, discussions were polarized between two differing views.

First, students argued that problematic beliefs must be challenged intellectually, making college campuses the correct environment to do so. /u/ZeBushmaster wrote:

“Campuses are supposed to be places where beliefs are challenged. If you genuinely think his beliefs are wrong, you should challenge them in the academic setting of a lecture/speaking event, where you can listen to his argument and then refute it in the Q/A section.

"There are few things more embarrassing than a student half your age dismantling your argument in front of the rest of the student body. The platform argument only really matters when people can't think for themselves, which shouldn't happen on a college campus if the campus is doing it's [sic] job.

"If your time in college hasn't taught you to question the arguments you hear, do some research yourself, and then make up your own informed opinion, then you've been done a disservice. I understand technical schools are supposed to teach you skills for a career, but colleges as a whole are supposed to teach you how to reason and critically think about the world.

Other students countered that providing platforms for hateful ideologies at campuses is dangerous and morally wrong. /u/JtppaTV wrote:

“Look around you, in the country that we live in today. Can you honestly tell me with a straight face that hateful, unintelligent ideology will defeat itself?

"We live in a world where free speech is more powerful than ever before, with the existence of the internet and social media being key factors. We live in a country where diseases that have been nearly eradicated, such as measles and whooping cough, are making massive comebacks due to people spreading anti-vaccination ideologies. We live in a world where white supremacists can hold rallies in the streets, and our own f***ing president doesn't condemn them.

"I understand that free speech is incredibly important. But in this day and age where hatred, bigotry, and plain old idiocy can spread like wildfire, you can't just let everyone say anything they want.

Do All Ideologies Deserve a Platform?

It is important to note that Spencer condones what he describes as “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of non-whites. Although he claims this is a nonviolent approach to white racial purity he has published on his alt-right site articles that beg to differ. For example, one article, "Is Black Genocide Right?" by Colin Liddel, which has since been retracted, stated:

“Instead of asking how we can make reparations for slavery, colonialism and Apartheid or how we can equalize academic scores and incomes, we should instead be asking questions like, ‘Does human civilization actually need the Black race?’ ‘Is Black genocide right?’ and, if it is, ‘What would be the best and easiest way to dispose of them?’ With starting points like this, wisdom is sure to flourish, enlightenment to dawn.

Spencer condones anti-blackness, genocide of nonwhites and many other hateful beliefs, so does he still deserve to speak at major universities? Of the surveyed students, 43 percent said yes, although 14 percent added qualifiers and exceptions to their yes answers. Interestingly, over 39 percent of students surveyed also answered that they would protest a Richard Spencer event at RIT. A majority of students seem to agree that it is Spencer’s First Amendment right to speak but they also recognize their right to assemble and protest him.

Although students may be ready to demonstrate if the opportunity presents themselves, they may not get the chance to. The C11.0 POLICY WITH RESPECT TO DEMONSTRATIONS ON CAMPUS Section B reads:

“The freedom of movement or speech of any individual or group shall be maintained, provided that this shall not be deemed to countenance language or actions likely to provoke or encourage disruption of, or interference with classes, educational activities, or any events sponsored by RIT or any recognized official, faculty or student group."

Although C11.0 is currently up for review and updates, its current language could prevent students from protesting in any disruptive way. If a hate speaker were to come to campus, students seem to want it to be in a medium where they could protest and challenge the speaker's views. If Richard Spencer were to be invited to campus, RIT students have made their stance clear.