University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto on Friday described as "offensive and appalling" the racist remarks of a U.S. Senate write-in candidate who spoke to students about his campaign platform — "With Jews We Lose" — two days earlier at a Constitution Day campus event.
Capilouto, UK's first Jewish president, did not apologize for the controversy, and UK spokesman Jay Blanton said that Buck Ryan, the journalism faculty member who organized the event, would not be disciplined.
However, in an email to UK students and employees, Capilouto said "hate speech" should not go unchallenged on campus.
"It is not enough to passively dismiss hate speech as the rant of the foolish and ill-informed," Capilouto wrote.
Never miss a local story.
"We must make clear, as loudly and as often as we can, that our university has no patience for the peddlers of poisonous views," he wrote. "We must be vigilant in our advocacy of our core principles of diversity and inclusion and compassion. And we must answer the pitiful and lonely language of hate with a strong chorus of voices proudly embracing the value of each and every member of our community."
He added: "Everyone is free to believe what they believe and say what they want to say. But the language of hate aimed at the diminishment of anyone has no place in our community and is contrary to the values of our university."
The Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass on Friday issued a statement chastising UK for giving the Senate candidate, Robert Ransdell of Florence, a platform to spread hatred, noting that several high school students attended the event.
"His views of hatred were well-known and easy to research," said the group's community relations committee. "Highlighting a purveyor of hate speech to a group of high school students is a misguided representation of the First Amendment and is contrary to the ideals of civil discourse in a university and democracy."
The group also said it was concerned that allowing Ransdell to speak "fosters an unsafe learning environment for students and faculty."
Ransdell did not respond Friday to requests for comment.
University spokeswoman Kathy Johnson said Thursday that all certified candidates for U.S. Senate were invited to speak at the event and that the university was not aware that Ransdell planned to make racist comments.
On Wednesday, Ransdell used his time at the podium for Constitution Day to promote white supremacy. Ryan, the director of the Citizen Kentucky Project of the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center at UK, reportedly rejected a call from the audience to halt Ransdell's remarks. But a UK Student Center staff member cut the power to Ransdell's microphone, and he left the stage.
Ryan did not respond Friday to requests for comment.
After the event, DuPont Manual High School journalism teachers James Miller and Liz Palmer, who brought a group of students to the event, issued a statement saying that they believed UK "invited this person as a way to challenge the students to write a piece about his provocative views, but the perceived educational merit of the activity was not apparent to anyone."
Miller and Palmer could not be reached Friday for comment.
Earlier in the week, UK's celebration of the U.S. Constitution included events with U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and his challenger in the Nov. 4 election, Anthany Beatty.
As a write-in candidate, Ransdell won't be listed on the November ballot, but votes in his name will be counted.