He is a one-man media-wooing machine, a would-be lawyer and self-proclaimed reverend who takes glee in the free air time he has received to spread his message of hate.
Few outside Illinois knew who white supremacist Matt Hale was until last July, when alleged follower Benjamin Smith went on a shooting rampage across Illinois and Indiana that left nine wounded and three dead, including Smith.
Hale, who claims he does not advocate violence, now sells T-shirts proclaiming Smith a martyr. He and a few followers continue to paper neighborhoods with literature from his World Church of the Creator. And now he wants Northwestern University to officially recognize a student chapter of his group.
His presence on campus, most recently on Friday, has put a university long known as a bastion of free speech in a quandary: What lengths can or should officials there go to keep a self-proclaimed racist and antisemite away from students?
"Because we're a private campus, we have the right to regulate, and we do every day," says Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations at Northwestern, where the shooting death of former basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong, whom Smith allegedly targeted because he was black, is still fresh in the minds of faculty members and students.
"It troubles me that Hale is using Northwestern as a launching pad for his garbage," Cubbage adds.
It also troubled him that he had to cancel a meeting Friday to monitor a visit Hale made in an attempt to recruit students. The visit turned violent when Hale and at least two of his supporters scuffled with protesters, most of whom were not students.
"The true haters are the anti-racists," said a bloody-lipped Hale, who traveled to the Evanston campus from his home in East Peoria and vowed to continue his fight to form a campus group.
Three Chicago men, none of them students, were arrested for disorderly conduct.
Some university officials and some students believe the best way to handle Hale is to ignore him. Cubbage, for example, regularly gives reporters who call about Hale, including those from the university's newspaper, a hard time for "giving Hale ink."
Others aren't so sure.
"I don't think Matt Hale should be able to claim our space," says Beki Park, a Northwestern sophomore who left a student discussion organized as a boycott of Hale's visit to take part in the direct protests against his visit. "I don't think just sitting back is doing any good."
Then there's the matter of freedom of expression.
Being a private university does give Northwestern more leeway, constitutionally, to keep Hale at bay, said Martin Redish, a law professor at Northwestern University who specializes in the First Amendment. But he said that does not make the question of how to deal with Hale--or how much attention to pay to him--much easier.
"One should debate how much you want to start selectively censoring views in a university setting," Redish said. "But that's a moral debate, not a constitutional one."
The American Civil Liberties Union sides with Hale.
"I don't think that our First Amendment rights, which have served our country and our democracy well for 200 years, should be set on their ear because of Matt Hale, however repugnant we find what he says," said Ed Yohnka, a spokesman in the ACLU's Chicago office.
Hale detractors disagree.
"We have to take a stand. I don't believe that being silent makes this go away," said Jeffrey Isaac, a political science professor at Indiana University and a member of Bloomington United, a community group that formed after Smith killed a Korean student in the Indiana college town.
His group has chosen to take public stands against Hale and his followers, staging public rallies on campus to oppose hate speech and hate crimes.
Taking a page from civil rights organizers, the group also supports the use of civil lawsuits to fight hate crime. Two Chicago families have already filed such a lawsuit attempting to hold Hale and Smith's parents accountable for the shootings. Other victims, who are awaiting the results of an FBI investigation of Hale, say they are considering similar lawsuits.
Some wonder whether such lawsuits could have a chilling effect on free speech. But others, including lawyers from the Anti-Defamation League, say it's worth exploring holding people like Hale responsible for the damage that can result from hate speech.
Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, a Jewish leader on the Northwestern campus, is another.
"If Matt Hale wants to get up and say he hates Jews and it's true . . . and it's not leading to violence, I may not like it," Klein says. "But it's very different than creating a discourse that can only lead to one thing--the killing and maiming of others."