Little action taken in response to new alt-right posters found on campus
Anti-Black and anti-Islam fliers attributed to the alt-right movement were found on campus Friday morning — the third discovery of similarly offensive posters found on University of Michigan property this semester.
Three of the posters found Friday were displayed outside South Quad Residence Hall and included headlines like “Black and White IQ Distributions,” as well as text that portrayed differences in rates of sexually transmitted diseases, intelligence and welfare usage between white and Black men and women. Some posters included a frog meme that has come to be associated with the alt-right, an internet-based white nationalist movement.
LSA freshman Kori Thomas first noticed the posters at around 11 a.m. on Friday and tweeted out photos to show other students the fliers being displayed on campus.
“At first, when I saw those fliers, I was shocked,” Thomas said. “I thought that we were done with those after last month’s incident. I wanted to get the photos out there for others to see. After that though, I was just mad.”
In total, seven fliers were discovered and posted to social media, including one that was previously posted around campus last month.
Following the initial discovery of anti-Black fliers on campus in September, students held protests around the school, drawing more than 400 students and calling for the University to take more immediate action to resolve issues of campus climate. Administrators released a statement condemning the posters soon after, and University President Mark Schlissel hosted a forum six days later to further discuss the impact the posters had on students.
In response to Thomas’s tweet of the posters on Friday, dozens of alt-right supporters and sympathizers responded directly with racial epithets and insults. Some responses also targeted Schlissel with anti-Semitic language.
Earlier this month, the University launched a campus-wide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative that aims to increase diverse representation on campus through institutional initiatives and discussion. In an interview with The Michigan Daily in October, Schlissel noted the importance of campus engagement to resolve issues of people hanging up offensive posters.
“Regarding the episodes of the posters, on multiple occasions, we’ve got no eyewitnesses, we don’t have video, so (finding the people responsible) will be very difficult,” Schlissel said. “But in a sense, this is something that students can help us with as well. In that you all, collectively, are the eyes and ears of the campus. And if this is offensive, as it is to almost everybody, if not everybody, then keep your eyes open. If you see someone putting something up and you look at its content, now you are an eyewitness to something that is offensive to a large faction of our community, and you should speak up.”
LSA sophomore Carly Marten said she also noticed an anti-Islamic poster that characterized the New Year’s assaults in Cologne, Germany as a “brutal mass rape” on the concrete pillar at the corner of State Street and North University Avenue Friday morning.
“When I saw the poster at North University and State Street, I was so upset and mad,” Marten said. “So I took a photo, sent it to some on-campus activists I knew and then tore it down.”
Only minutes later, Marten, who is a supporter of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, saw another poster that contained an infographic titled “What does the alt-right want?” on a concrete pillar outside of the Chemistry Building. Immediately she photographed it and contacted local BLM activists.
“When I saw the posters, some guys kind of heckled me outside the Chemistry Building,” she said. “My emotional reaction was just shocked and angry, even though I am not a member of the attacked group.”
Several students affiliated with the Students4Justice campaign, which spurred some of the early protests around the fliers, did not respond to requests for comment on whether there are future protests or other events planned in response to the third round of fliers.
After being informed of the incident by the Daily, LSA senior David Schafer, president of Central Student Government, wrote in an email interview that the fliers were contrary to the values of the University.
“Again, we are confronted with the presence of racist and white supremacist flyers on our campus,” Schafer wrote. “This is a perversion of the fundamental values on which this university rests. Let us all stand tall — and stand in solidarity with the targeted communities. Our commitment to truly serving as allies requires us to back up our words with concrete actions.”