The weekend prior to the beginning of fall semester, posters advertising white nationalism and supremacy were found at the Weber State University Ogden Campus. The posters were promptly taken down.
Covering existing WSU posters, the posters grabbed attention with sayings such as “Hey, White Person!” and “Aren’t you tired of anti-white propaganda?” promoting racism and QR codes that led to alt-right websites.
The posters violated the school’s policy on the Distribution of Written Materials on Campus, wherein any student, faculty or guest must obtain approval from the Office of University Relations.
News and images of the posters were distributed via social media, text message, and word of mouth. Adrienne Gillespie Andrews, Chief Diversity Officer for Weber State, was alerted of this incident via Facebook and text message. “I was not happy, but it’s not unexpected, and the reason it’s not unexpected is because we see this happening nationwide on college campuses.” Andrews said. “While I would not like to think it could happen here, it could happen anywhere,” regarding a similar event that occurred on the University of Utah campus a few weeks prior.
Quickly following the poster removal on campus, President Wight’s Welcome Email reinforced the welcoming community and respect of differences in ideas, backgrounds and experiences that Weber State offers its students, faculty & staff and guests. He wrote, “Our institution is a marketplace of ideas, in which we do our best to foster respectful viewpoints. Messages that simply exude hate and bigotry shut down that marketplace … We must work to keep Weber State the welcoming environment it always has been.”
History major and Senior Kestin Page discovered the news of these posters, simultaneously after finding out his flyers for the movie viewing of “13th,” a documentary on the history on racial injustice within the United States, were taken down. Page’s initial shock turned into wondering how Weber State University can take this event and turn it into a discussion for students and faculty.
“These [white supremacist] ideas are everywhere in America and it’s important for us to have those sort of conversations about what they are, how they happen and how they permeate our society…We as a community, the university as an institution, need to be doing everything that we can to support one another,” Page said.
In response to the posters, Weber State is taking the initiative by reaffirming the new theme for the Community of Engaged Learning, already set in place since the spring semester of 2017. The new theme, Civility, will produce workshops, speakers, activities and presentations centered on the theme itself. Posters on yellow paper have also been seen around Elizabeth Hall, reading “Hate is NOT welcome here!”
Andrews’ office has been working with community partners, holding conversations about race in town hall meetings for the last year.
“The conversations we’ve been having about race aren’t in response to this situation, they’ve been ongoing. So that means that we’ve recognized that we are not immune to these sorts of situations happening. But it does present for us an opportunity to have difficult conversations around the idea of free speech and what the means on a university campus,” Andrews said.
On Sept. 7, an open forum regarding student reactions to the postings will be held at 10:30 a.m., sponsored by the Diversity Office.