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Padgett v. Auburn University

From April 2017 to April 2017
Auburn University (Public college or university)
Auburn, Alabama

Identity of Speakers

  • Cameron Padgett
    Student
    Other

    Cameron Padgett is a graduate student at Georgia State University who attempts to invite Richard Spencer to college campuses around the country.

  • Richard Spencer
    Student
    Invited for non-academic lecture

    Richard Spencer is a well-known white supremacist and leader of the “alt-right” group.

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Other student-organized event
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration not protective of speech
    Litigation
  • Incident Status:
    Held unconstitutional
  • Incident Protested
  • Did not involve Speech Codes

Summary

In the Spring of 2017, Cameron Padgett, a student at Georgia State University, entered into an agreement with Auburn to rent an auditorium to host a speech by Richard Spencer. Spencer is an infamous white nationalist who is often credited with creating the “alt-right.” The University’s decision to allow Spencer to speak was met with significant backlash from members of the student-body. In response, on May 12, 2017, Auburn issued the following statement: “we strongly deplore [Spencer’s] views, which run counter to those of this institution. While his event isn’t affiliated with the university, Auburn supports the constitutional right to free speech.” However, on April 14, 2017, Auburn canceled the event, citing security and safety concerns.

Padgett filed a § 1983 action against Auburn University and various University officials, as well as a motion for a preliminary injunction order to enjoin the University from canceling the event. On April 18, 2017, the District Court for the Middle District Alabama, Eastern Division, granted Padgett’s motion, finding that Auburn had engaged in viewpoint discrimination in contravention of the First Amendment. The speech occurred on April 18, 2017