White supremacists have held minor campaigns on college campuses in the past, but an unprecedented amount of hate-group propaganda and a rebranding of white supremacy as “alt-right” have been especially geared to recruit and provoke college students in recent months.
A recent report by the Anti-Defamation League cited at least 107 incidents of white-supremacist propaganda on college campuses since the beginning of the academic year, in September, at least 65 of which have occurred since January. Posters with messages like “Make America white again” and “Imagine a Muslim-free America” have been found in high-traffic areas on campuses in 25 states.
Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said in an interview that this level of white-supremacist postering has not been seen before on campuses, and that such activity had doubled with plans from those hate groups that want to increase “real-world outreach,” creating more organized and forceful campaigns at colleges.
Identity Evropa’s “Project Siege,” for example, involved plans for the white-supremacist group to speak directly to students. Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos have sparked debates about free speech and hate speech by touring and delivering speeches on campuses across the country.
“When white supremacists feel they have an opening to do the flier distribution, to go onto campus and to speak to students, that is a sign of the times to some degree,” Mr. Segal said.
The report attributes the energized white-supremacist presence to the rhetoric of the 2016 presidential campaign, and the election of President Trump.
Jared Taylor, a notorious white supremacist, has previously visited college campuses. “Now is the time to press our advantage in every way possible,” he wrote online recently about Mr. Trump’s election, which he deemed a “sign of rising white consciousness,” the report says.
Students have protested and denounced the presence of white-supremacist propaganda on their campuses, and administrators have responded. The president of the University of Texas at Austin called for a town-hall meeting after a group called American Vanguard targeted the college with anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant fliers. Purdue University students held a sit-in in a campus administration building, demanding that their president denounce the white-supremacist fliers found on their campus.