Breaking Campus News. Launching Media Careers.
Outrage erupts over Kyle Rittenhouse campus tour

Protests and cancelation petitions are greeting Kyle Rittenhouse as the young man makes several stops at campuses in the Midwest for speeches on behalf of Turning Point USA chapters.

Rittenhouse, who was found not guilty of murder after defending himself from attacks during a Kenosha, Wisc.-based Black Lives Matter riot in 2020, is scheduled to give talks at University of Memphis on March 20 and Kent State University on April 16.

The Memphis talk, titled “The Rittenhouse Recap,” has prompted “outrage,” the Commercial Appeal newspaper reported, adding many “users on Twitter and Facebook have also encouraged people to acquire tickets to the event ― which is free ― and not show up.”

“In a series of posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, former Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer condemned the event. She shared the professional contact information of U of M president Bill Hardgrave and his chief of staff, urging people to let them know how they feel about Rittenhouse speaking,” the newspaper reported.

The University of Memphis released a lengthy statement to regional media distancing itself from the event, pointing out a student group is hosting it, but adding it cannot cancel the event. The statement read in part:

The expression of differing ideas and opinions plays an important role in maintaining a diverse campus environment that is open and inclusive. The University encourages peaceful, respectful debate among its student population.

It is essential that these discussions take place while maintaining a safe environment on our campus. Speech that includes threats, harassment or attempts to incite violence is not protected under the First Amendment and is strongly prohibited by the University.

To maintain our commitment to a safe environment, Campus Police Services has a comprehensive plan to address potential safety concerns as it relates to this event. This includes working with local law enforcement and providing additional security uphold its obligation to adhere to the principles of the First Amendment and Tennessee’s Campus Free Speech Act. Due to this obligation, the University cannot legally prohibit the event from taking place.

The expression of differing ideas and opinions plays an important role in maintaining a diverse campus environment that is open and inclusive.

“The Rittenhouse Recap” is also scheduled to make a stop at Kent State University in mid-April. The Akron Beacon Journal reported that two petitions have called for Kent State to cancel the appearance.

“A Microsoft Form asks the university to denounce the event and also requests that Turning Point USA be barred from KSU for ‘supporting hate speech,'” the newspaper reported, adding the petition states: “While free speech laws limit the actions the university can take in preventing this event from happening, this is an egregious act of hate towards the Black and Brown communities in this area.”

The Journal added:

A second petition, posted on Change.org by KSU student Ally Grecco, urges the university and Turning Point to reconsider the decision to host Rittenhouse. Grecco points out KSU’s “painful history with gun violence” on May 4, 1970, which had profound impacts on national politics.

“The decision to host an individual associated with such violence is not only insensitive to our community’s past but also threatens to further divide us in these already tense times,” the petition states. “We must remember that our university should be a place for learning and growth – not for promoting divisive figures or ideologies that could potentially incite more violence.”

A spokeswoman for Kent State gave the Journal a similar statement to the one put out by the University of Memphis, that being Rittenhouse is being hosted by a student organization, the school supports free speech, and its leaders encourage students to have constructive dialogues about challenging issues.

Last month, Rittenhouse spoke at East Tennessee State University, which also prompted a protest. It was organized by Young Democratic Socialists of America at ETSU, and featured several dozen students, community members and others, who held signs that stated “killer off our campus,” “stop hate speech” and “racists not welcome,” the Johnson City Press reported.

Again, a university spokesperson defended the event as an expression of free speech, the newspaper reported.


Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

Please join the conversation about our stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, MeWe, Rumble, Gab, Minds and Gettr.

About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.