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Penn State officials criticize student group's event with Proud Boys founder

Patrick Varine
Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa. (TNS)

Penn State University officials criticized a student organization's plans to host an upcoming event with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes.

Student organization Uncensored America on Oct. 24 is scheduled to host McInnes and BlazeTV contributor Alex Stein's "Stand Back & Stand By."

University officials on Tuesday released a statement criticizing McInnes and Stein as "controversial figures whose rhetoric in the past has been hateful and discriminatory."

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"Once again, we find ourselves in the unenviable position of sharing space with individuals whose views differ dramatically from our university's values of inclusion, diversity, equity and respect," the statement reads.

The title of the event is a quote from former President Donald Trump's 2020 debate comments. When asked to denounce white supremacists, Trump was widely criticized across the political spectrum for telling the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by."

The university has received requests to cancel the event, but had no plans to do so, according to the statement.

"While the past statements and actions of these speakers are alarming and can elicit strong reactions from our community, we must continue to uphold the right to free speech — even speech we find abhorrent — because Penn State fully supports the fundamental right of free speech," the statement read. "To do otherwise not only violates the Constitution but would erode the basic freedom each of us shares to think and express ourselves as we wish."

Gavin McInnes, center, founder of the far-right group Proud Boys, with supporters at a 2017 rally in California.

The statement contained the names of Penn State's interim vice president and general counsel Frank Guadagnino, student affairs vice president Damon Sims and educational equity vice provost Marcus White.

The university also announced two diversity-themed events that would offer an alternative on the evening of Oct. 24:

—Together We Are, 6-10 p.m. at the Alumni and Heritage halls in the HUB-Robeson Center, with activities, performances and resources to support and promote belonging and community.

—Fighting Truth Decay: How and Why Fakers Fake, 6-7 p.m. at the Freeman Auditorium, HUB-Robeson Center. Al Thompkins, senior faculty at the Poynter Institute, will present a free public lecture. His keynote presentation is part of a two-day visit through the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Visiting Professionals Program.