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PSU administrator outlines steps taken ahead of return visit by controversial right-wing performer

Alex Stein surrounded by protestors.
Alex Stein Instagram screenshot
Alex Stein had been scheduled to speak at Penn State on April 24, 2023, but the student Uncensored America says they ran into scheduling issues. This photo is a still from a video Stein made with protestors just before his Oct. 24, 2022 talk at Penn State was canceled.

A Penn State administrator said the university has done more preparation and community engagement ahead of an upcoming appearance by right-wing provocateur Alex Stein, whose performance at the University Park campus a year ago ended up getting canceled at the last minute amid confrontations with protestors.

The student group Uncensored America is sponsoring Monday's appearance, with about $7,700 in student activity fee funding.

Stein came to campus in October 2022 with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes. But before their performance, confrontations broke out between Stein and protesters, and the university pointed to "the threat of escalating violence" and canceled the event.

Speaking to the Faculty Senate Tuesday, Provost Justin Schwartz outlined the steps the university is taking this year.

"We have, I think, learned a lot," he said.

Last year’s event was in the central part of campus. A challenge, Schwartz said, was ingress and egress from the event.

“Last year — it’s difficult to put a number on how many were attending the event as opposed to how many happened to be going by and discovered the event," he said. "That adds to the crowds, that adds to the tension, that adds to the buzz.”

This year, Stein's appearance is scheduled for a room in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Schwartz said not having the event near dorms or the student union building is a “significant difference.” And, he noted, there’s more space for peaceful protests.

“This person has been here before, so we understand perhaps a little better — granted that person’s playbook may be different this year than last," he said. "But we at least have a context of that person’s playbook.”

And, Schwartz said, the administration has been more pro-active.

“I think we’re doing far more community engagement in advance of the event," he said.

Last year’s clashes led the university to develop a policy on visitors’ rights and responsibilities. It took effect Oct. 3, 2023, and says in part: “Visitors have the responsibility to refrain from behaviors that interfere with or disrupt university activities and programs.”

According to the university, speaker contracts include language saying speakers have to follow all relevant university policies along with the law.

Copyright 2023 WPSU. To see more, visit WPSU.

Anne Danahy is a reporter at WPSU. She was a reporter for nearly 12 years at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, where she earned a number of awards for her coverage of issues including the impact of natural gas development on communities.