White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
(photo credit: ALEJANDRO ALVAREZ/NEWS2SHARE VIA REUTERS)
NEW YORK – White supremacist propaganda on US college campuses has proliferated at a dramatic rate since the fall of 2016, according to a report released by the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday.
The ADL noted that its Center on Extremism recorded 346 incidents in which white supremacists used fliers, stickers, banners and posters to spread their message since September 1, 2016.
Incidents occurred on 216 college campuses – from Ivy League schools to community colleges – in 44 states and Washington, DC.
There were 147 such incidents reported in the 2017 fall semester – which runs from September 1 through December 31 – compared with 41 incidents during the 2016 fall semester.
“White supremacists are targeting college campuses like never before,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said.
“They see campuses as a fertile recruiting ground, as evidenced by the unprecedented volume of propagandist activity designed to recruit young people to support their vile ideology.”
One of the most active white nationalist groups during this time was Identity Evropa, which seeks to preserve “white American culture” and promote “white European identity.”
The group was responsible for nearly half the total incidents, according to the ADL’s findings.
Other white supremacist groups such as Patriot Front and Vanguard America were recorded just this past week plastering their fliers across several college campuses and handing out literature.
The latter group was also accused of vandalizing a Black History Month poster at Middle Tennessee University with its own material.
Texas and California were hardest hit by last fall’s incidents, with 61 and 43, respectively. Those states are home to the most concentrated and active membership for IE and Patriot Front, the groups that most frequently employ vandalism as a tactic.
White supremacist propaganda is not just relegated to paper and has found other media to express its brand of bigotry, the ADL reported.
One of the movement’s most prominent figures is Richard Spencer, a 39-year-old Boston native who has toured US college campuses across the US espousing white nationalist ideals.
Spencer is president of the National Policy Institute, which is the ADL describes as a white supremacist think tank, and spoke at Texas A&M University in December 2016, Auburn University in April 2017, and the University of Florida in October 2017.
He is scheduled to speak at Michigan State University in March and is attempting to hold an event at Kent State University on May 4, the 48th anniversary of the slaying of four students by National Guardsmen during demonstrations there against the Vietnam War.
“While campuses must respect and protect free speech, administrators must also address the need to counter hate groups’ messages and show these bigoted beliefs belong in the darkest shadows, not in our bright halls of learning,” Greenblatt said.
“There is a moral obligation to respond clearly and forcefully to constitutionally protected hate speech.”
ADL provided a number of policy recommendations to address hate speech on campus in its report. These included educating faculty and students on the parameters of their First Amendment free-speech rights, and improving training for campus officials on responding to bias incidents and hate crimes.