“Protect your heritage.” “Serve your people.” “Let’s become great again.”
Multiple posters blazoning these phrases have been found on campus in the last two weeks. They are associated with a prominent white supremacist organization, Identity Evopa.
Dean of Students Jim Bies said that the university has collected or received reports of around a dozen posters and a handful of business cards promoting the white supremacist group.
The group is notorious for posting promotional materials on colleges across the nation, in an attempt to seek out and recruit young, educated students.
Along with Augustana, several posters have popped up on other campuses, including Auburn University, the University of Maryland, Purdue University in Indiana, University of Central Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and Emerson College in Massachusetts, the Washington Post reported.
As stated on its website, the group targets college campuses because they are a prolific ground to spread their message and gain publicity.
Communication studies professor John Bart said the group most likely targets college campuses because they are prime locations for individuals that normally join the organization: outsiders.
The organization takes advantage of people who are struggling for an identity and feel disconnected from society.
“The main reason people join is not necessarily for the ideas espoused, but they join them because they have a sense of loss and lack of belonging,” Bart said.
Recent studies show that in the last year, white supremacist fliers have been appearing on college campuses at an unprecedented rate.
The Anti-Defamation League reported that 110 college campuses have reported 161 incidents of white supremacist flyering since September 2016.
Here at Augustana, posters were found tacked on a corkboards in the Humanities and on lightpoles in the Elmen Center parking lot. A handful of business cards were discovered in the Mikkelsen Library as well.
Librarian Krista Ohrtman said the library staff contacted Campus Safety after the cards were discovered. Ohrtman said the cards were in multiple locations in the library, but the exact number of them are not known.
“I don’t know where every single one of them was found,” Ohrtman said. “I know some of them were found on the ends of the shelves. I know we found between three to five cards.”
Senior John White said he found business cards while working in the library.
He said he was shocked and confused by the incident.
“I think they are the product of lack of education, victimization and hatred,” White said. “They are stupid.”
The identity of the individual that put up the posters is still not known.
“If it is not Identity Evropa, it is one of our students putting up a message that is not embracing our differences and is calling out individuals based on their ethnic identity or faith identity,” Bies said.
“We need to know and address any group or message that does not embrace our differences because it has no place on our campus.”
Bies said that Augustana, as a community, has a commitment to the diversity of people, ideas and opinions.