Kent State Students Trying to Cancel Rittenhouse Speech on Campus

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AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Kyle Rittenhouse’s upcoming speech at Kent State University is causing campus snowflakes to melt down, with hundreds of students, faculty, and alumni demanding that the university and the KSU Turning Point USA chapter cancel his appearance. 

petition has started to ask the organization to cancel Rittenhouse’s appearance on campus.
“As a member of the Kent State community, I am deeply concerned about an upcoming event hosted by student organization Turning Point USA, which will feature Kyle Rittenhouse as a guest,” Ally Greco, with the petition, wrote. “Rittenhouse is a controversial figure who shot three men, two fatally, during civil protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020. These individuals were protesting the shooting of a Black man by a white police officer.”

Rittenhouse is definitely a controversial speaker, but so what? Isn’t hearing from a wide variety of viewpoints a part of the college experience? And Greco’s description of the events that led to Rittenhouse shooting three people leaves out the fundamentally important fact that he was being attacked when he fired his rifle. He was charged with murder, he went to trial, and he was acquitted of all charges by a jury of his peers. 

While Greco’s petition calls for students and faculty to “stand together as one community against hate and division”, there’s an awful lot of hate being directed towards Rittenhouse by signatories. Here are just a few examples. 

“Kent State should not be supporting this racist killer at a school that is known for a quite famous shooting.” 
“The first mass school shooting that I remember from my childhood was Kent State. Why would they allow this gun toting killer to give a speech there? This is an insult to the victims of that shooting and it should NOT be allowed.”
“I went to Kent State University. Kyle Rittenhouse should not be able to give speeches about killing people at the site of one the worst shootings in America history. The trauma is still felt.” 
“A shooter should not be allowed to talk about gun violence to a campus that is extremely historic with May 4th and the starting of Black History Month here. A man who shot people because they were protesting in BLM should not be allowed to come to the campus where all support for black history month originated. He’s also just a horrible human being.”
“Very poor taste. It’s not appropriate given the history of violence against prostestors just like Kyle Rittenhouse murdered. Shameful. Division & hatred doesn’t deserve a platform.”

Oh, there’s a lot of hate and division on display, but it’s coming from the self-proclaimed forces of tolerance. 

Even if these clowns believe that Rittenhouse is a grifter who’s capitalizing on his 15 minutes of fame (or infamy, depending on your point of view) instead of moving on from the worst moments of his life, he still has every right to speak his mind, just as Turning Point USA has every right to invite him to speak to its members of the Kent State chapter. 

If these folks have a problem with Kyle Rittenhouse, there’s a simple solution: don’t go listen to him speak. Heck, go protest outside the event if that makes them happy. But trying to bar someone from speaking on campus because they don’t like their viewpoint (or a jury’s decision) is an appalling act of intolerance, and I’m glad that Kent State is sticking to its guns (so to speak) when it comes to Rittenhouse’s appearance. 

A registered student organization is bringing this speaker to campus. Kent State University upholds the First Amendment rights of free speech and peaceful assembly for all. As a state university, we permit groups and individuals to speak and share their views on our campus about topics they feel are important. Kent State has a long history of allowing peaceful dialogue from all points of view, including those whom some may feel are offering different and/or sometimes controversial opinions. As with any speaker invited to our campus, the university does not endorse or condone an opinion or point of view represented by the speaker, nor does the university advocate for any topic the speaker might discuss during their visit to campus. We continue to support and encourage freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas. Consistent with our core values, we encourage open dialogue and respectful civil discourse in an inclusive environment.

Based on the comments above, I’d say Kent State has a lot of work to do in creating that “inclusive environment”, but maybe Rittenhouse’s appearance will be a teachable moment for the forces of intolerance on campus… or at least a reminder that the First Amendment doesn’t only protect the speech you agree with. 

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