Fuentes' speech at Rose-Hulman scratched

Nick Fuentes

Nick Fuentes, an American YouTube personality and political commentator who regularly hosts the America First podcast, will not be speaking at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology on Wednesday, a Rose-Hulman spokesperson said Monday.

Fuentes scheduled appearance on campus had caused much controversy. He was to speak on the topic, “Is Immigration Killing America?” at the invitation of the campus student group, Young Americans for Liberty.

“The national Young Americans for Liberty organization has pulled Rose-Hulman’s chapter affiliation, effectively closing the chapter,” according to Mary Atteberry, Rose-Hulman vice president for communication and marketing.

“As such, the student organization no longer exists and Lizzy Bohnet [formerly vice president of the Rose-Hulman Young Americans for Liberty] has informed the speaker that he will not have an engagement at Rose-Hulman, after all.

“Rose-Hulman has no further comment on this matter,” Atteberry said.

Contacted for comment, the national Young Americans for Liberty organization provided the following statement:

“Young Americans for Liberty focuses on promoting a peaceful message of limited government, free markets, civil liberties, and freedom for ALL Americans. In a free marketplace of ideas, the best ideas will win the heart and soul of those listening.

“We stand by an individual’s right to free speech, no matter how much we disagree with that individual. Specific to our chapter operations: YAL abhors any racism and will not associate with any speaker who believes that individuals receive their rights based on color of their skin. Our beliefs are simple: liberty for ALL Americans.”

The response came from Pooja Bachani, director of communications for the national Young Americans for Liberty group.

Fuentes’ appearance on campus was not sponsored or endorsed by Rose-Hulman.

According to an August 2017 article in the Chicago Tribune, Fuentes “garnered media attention in the past year for his support of Donald Trump and his YouTube videos, ‘America First with Nick Fuentes,’ in which he espoused his views about the failure of multiculturalism, immigration and his anger about what he said has been the marginalization of white people.”

According to the same article, he attended last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Fuentes said at that time he is not a racist and does not support violence, according to the Tribune article.

In response to Fuentes planned speaking engagement, Rose-Hulman president Jim Conwell sent an email letter to the campus community last week. He described Fuentes as “a white supremacist” and encouraged people not to attend.

“We do respect his First Amendment right to free speech — even if he speaks to an empty room, as I sincerely hope is the case at Rose-Hulman,” Conwell had written.

In a Tribune-Star interview, also last week, Fuentes, 20, who is from suburban Cook County, Illinois, stated his father is half Mexican and he is “unequivocally” not a white supremacist. He described his political views as that of “an American nationalist ... To me, it means putting America first in foreign policy, in trade and all other matters — it’s about protecting the American nation.”

On Monday, Fuentes said of his canceled speaking engagement, “I heard about it earlier today. I’m not really surprised that this happened,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is surprised ... that’s how these things go now” when it involves speakers with similar views, he said.

He took the opportunity to again criticize Conwell, who in a letter to campus supported free speech and Fuentes’ right to speak on campus. “Clearly, that turned out not to be true,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes said the national Young Americans for Liberty group gave the Rose-Hulman chapter an ultimatum to cancel the event or the national affiliation would be pulled.

“The local chapter refused to cancel, so it had its affiliation revoked,” he said.

According to a letter Conwell emailed to campus Monday, “The national YAL contacted the club leadership last Friday and make it clear that, while it champions freedom of speech, it believes in equal rights for all and is opposed to the notion that some groups are inferior to others. Because Fuentes’ views are in direct opposition to what YAL stands for, the national organization gave the club the ultimatum: pull the speaker or lose affiliation.

“Club leadership made the decision to separate from YAL. With the club no longer in existence, the event is canceled,” Conwell wrote.

Fuentes’ visit to Rose-Hulman sparked much controversy on campus, with many expressing the belief that his views promote intolerance and hate. Some said he should not be allowed to come to campus.

Efforts to reach the former Rose-Hulman chapter of Young Americans for Liberty were not immediately successful early Monday evening.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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