Campus Free Speech

Northeastern Illinois University Students Say Hosting Sean Spicer Promotes Violence

"Any platform he is provided...creates more space for right-wing extremists to escalate their attacks on our communities."


Sean Spicer, former White House press secretary, and Donna Brazile, former Democratic National Committee chairwoman, are slated to appear at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) on Thursday night to discuss the 2020 election.

But some student activists are demanding that the administration cancel the event. They argue that giving Spicer a platform promotes violence against marginalized people.

"We see the policies and rhetoric of the Trump administration—including the role Spicer took early in this administration—as drivers of this violence," protest organizers wrote on the Facebook event page for the Rally to Stop Sean Spicer at NEIU, which will take place during the event. "The role Spicer played—and that the Trump administration continues to play—in this violence is one of creating space for these acts to occur."

According to these students:

Spicer has consistently promoted policies like the Muslim ban, a border wall, family separation, mass deportations, banning trans people from serving in the military, and many other policies that have encouraged the violence that is taking over our world.

Any platform he is provided, including ones where people are allowed to debate and argue these policies, serves to legitimize these policies, and creates more space for right-wing extremists to escalate their attacks on our communities.

Protest organizers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

NEIU's Student Government Association recently held a town hall to discuss the upcoming Spicer event. SGA President Melanie Glover described it as "a space designed to support students, a space designed for your voice to be heard, and a space for you," according to the NEIU Independent. One participant expressed concern that "when you give these people coverage, on any platform, large or small, I think that encourages violence and helps make their ability to grow that much better."

Another put it this way:

"To me, this is like a safe space. So why are we inviting people of this nature, that indirectly attack us, our parents and families, to come to a place like this, and enter our safe haven? Why are we not allowed a voice in our own safe space?"

This apparent consensus among activist students that giving right-wing speakers any opportunity to speak will increase the power of the far-right is baffling. If they really believed that giving people like Spicer "coverage, on any platform, large or small" was such a terrible idea, then the last thing they should do is hold town halls, protest, and make demands: These antics only make it likely that Spicer's remarks will actually attract more attention from the public, media, etc.

According to The College Fix, Spicer and Brazile's speaking fees were paid by a donor to the university. The administration has pledged to move forward with the discussion.