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Controversial writer Mike Adams lecturing on UM campus

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University of Montana faculty and students are speaking out ahead of a scheduled lecture on campus by a controversial columnist. 

Mike Adams is a criminology and sociology professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. He writes for the conservative website townhall.com, where his statements on Muslims, women and the LGBTQ community triggered a petition for his termination at UNC. The petition specifically called out his online attack on a 19-year-old Muslim student where he mocked her religion and sexuality. He has also derided transgender people as being mentally ill.

Nonetheless, Adams was invited to lecture at the University of Montana's 10th anniversary Jeff Cole Distinguished Lecture series. His lecture, scheduled for Feb. 13, has drawn criticism from the local community. Maria Cole, Jeff Cole's widow, is a major donor to UM and has paid to book the Dennison Theatre to bring Adams to campus.

UM Dean of Humanities and Sciences Elizabeth Hubble says Adams' statements aren't merely "provocative," but that giving him a public platform allows the spread of hate speech.

"We are always going to stand behind our students who face discrimination and prejudice because of their gender identity or sexual orientation," Hubble says.

One such student is Jaz Dierenfield, a member of the queer student group LAMBDA. Dierenfield worries that bringing someone to campus who speaks against minorities is a step backwards.

"That's a very uncomfortable feeling, because I want to be at a university that supports me and other students like me," Dierenfield said.

Dierenfield says controversial speakers are sometimes educational, but says that kind of speaker is best suited to a forum setting where people can exchange ideas and weigh in. 

Hubble says the university is responsive, but it comes to a question of free speech.

"The university does respect people's freedom of speech and also protecting academic freedom," Hubble says. "So I think that is one of the big issues here is where that line is between that and what we would call hate speech."

Former UM president Sheila Stearns previously stated that contest and political views are not a reason to disinvite a speaker to campus. In response to a complaint from Adams, she emailed him to say that he is not banned from campus or limited in what he wants to present.

Adams' Feb. 13 presentation is called "The Death of Liberal Bias in Higher Education."

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