A request to form an “alt-right” student group at the University of Wisconsin at Madison led the chancellor, Rebecca Blank, on Thursday to issue a campuswide letter informing students and faculty members that the student who made the request has a criminal record of arson attacks on black churches.
In the letter, Ms. Blank did not identify the student but said she had become “aware that he was convicted in 2005 of racially motivated arsons of two African-American churches.” She added: “I am appalled by attacks on churches and by organizations that express hatred of people of color, Jews, Muslims, or any other identity.”
Ms. Blank said that the university’s admission system does not ask prospective students to disclose their criminal histories but that, “in light of this situation, I will request that the Board of Regents consider a review of this policy.” Colleges often decide not to ask applicants about their criminal records because they believe such a question effectively discriminates against minority students and those from poorer communities.
The so-called alt-right movement, a euphemistic term for a white-supremacist or white-nationalist ideology that embraces a range of racist and anti-immigrant views, gained notoriety during the presidential election. Ms. Blank said in her letter that the student claims an affiliation to the American Freedom Party, a white-nationalist group.
The chancellor also wrote that there is no specific threat to the campus, but “we continue to track this situation closely given the student’s history.”