In response to widespread protests over racism on college campuses, a new movement has taken root — the “white student union.” Facebook pages affiliated with more than two dozen campuses have popped up like weeds over the past few days, with news outlets both national and local taking note.
Except it’s not a movement: Many of the pages seem to be nothing more than thinly disguised copies of each other, with little to no connection to the colleges themselves.
A post on the blogging website Medium, by the user Bears for Equality, traces the phenomenon back to a post on the white-supremacist blog the Daily Stormer. That post, dated on Saturday, latched onto the appearance of a “white student union” page affiliated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and called on readers to duplicate it. “Make more of these White Student Union pages on Facebook for various universities,” the post reads. “You don’t have to go there.”
The Medium post also cites significant similarities in the pages’ descriptions as an indication that they are the work of the same person or group of people. It also links to a non-exhaustive list of the pages.
Some Facebook users are echoing the debunking efforts, posting links to the Medium blog in the comments of the “white student unions.”
Colleges aren’t exactly thrilled to be associated with the pages. New York University, saying it had asked Facebook to remove the page, assured New York’s Daily News that there was no “white student union” group on its campus. “We reject — and we call on others to reject — efforts such as this to derail or distort candid, thoughtful discourse on race,” the university’s director of public affairs, Matt Nagel, told the newspaper.