For universities, the new academic year has nearly arrived. If it’s anything like last year, controversial speakers will be a consistent challenge for administrators and students alike.
More often than not, the speakers that generate the most controversy are those labeled right-wing reactionaries by their critics. Last fall, Richard Spencer, a white nationalist, launched a speaking tour to recruit college students to the alt-right, a loose group of white supremacists and online agitators. His speech at Texas A&M University at College Station saw protest become physical, a turn that would become common throughout the coming months.
During a visit to the University of California at Berkeley in February, the far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was greeted by masked protesters who smashed windows and set fires on the campus. Weeks earlier, a man was shot during a protest of a speech by Mr. Yiannopoulos at the University of Washington.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that monitors hate groups, wants to reduce the number of these protests gone awry. To that end, the center, which also monitored cases of anti-immigrant and race-based harassment after the presidential election, has issued a 20-page report with advice for students on how best to respond when a controversial speaker from the alt-right comes to campus. The guide, titled "The Alt-Right on Campus: What Students Need to Know," is geared toward student activists, but it also has relevance to administrators and faculty members on dealing with contentious speakers. Here are a few highlights: