A white nationalist group that initially claimed affiliation with Auburn University has prompted condemnation from officials there.
The controversy surrounding the Auburn White Student Union represents the continued rise of white supremacist activities on university campuses, intensified by the contemporary political landscape.
Per its website, the group subscribes to the “alt-right” movement -- a right-wing following that often espouses white supremacist and racist views. Initially the site was emblazoned with an eagle and the moniker “Whites of the Alt-Right Educating Auburn Gentiles for Liberation and Empowerment,” or WAR EAGLE, a reference to the university’s motto. Since, the logo has been removed and replaced with a disclaimer that the group isn’t associated with Auburn.
The group is shrouded in digital anonymity. No contact information appears on its website, and the organization that registered the website domain is listed as “c/o RespectMyPrivacy LLC.”
A recent report from the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors racism and bigotry nationwide, revealed that even with the upswing of white nationalist activity at colleges and universities, most of it comes from groups with no campus ties. At Auburn, there is only the suggestion it's run by students, and it's unclear if students have been recruited to the group.
The league found 107 incidents of white supremacist activity at colleges and universities as of March 6, when it released the report. Largely, these involved white supremacist promotional materials, like posters or leaflets, being dispensed on campuses.
News reports have linked the group with the recent emergence of anti-Semitic flyers on the Alabama campus. These materials spurred social media outrage, and the university Twitter account spent part of Tuesday sending the same statement to people: “This group isn't an Auburn student org, and we find the views expressed in their materials reprehensible and unrepresentative of the university.”
Not everyone felt satisfied by the university's response.
"That's nice and all, but what actions are being taken? Can we do something about them using our name like this?" one user tweeted back.
On the group website, it asserts that “far-left” movements like Black Lives Matter have targeted conservatives.
“Black-white integration has failed miserably, and our country becomes ever more divided the more nonwhites it has. White people are hungry for a group that will give them real, organic community, based on kinship, sincerity (rather than self-censorship and political correctness), and commonality. They’re fed up with the false idols of consumerism and sports teams as a substitute for real community. They never cared about abstractions that were foisted on them, like ‘tolerance,’” the website reads.
The group goes on to describe the election of President Trump as a victory that has energized the white conservative base.
Three “classes” of membership are detailed on the website. During a trial period, a group hopeful would study "white history," psychology and the current political “reality.” A full membership grants access to the group’s “inner sanctum.”
“Members who wish to remain anonymous may choose to meet only with other full members. While we forbid all illegal and criminal activity, anonymity is important if an anti-white employer would fire you for advocating for your race,” the website states.
An auxiliary membership is available for “allies” who may not fully agree with the group but empathize with its cause.
Only people of white ancestry are admitted, though the website states that those with “small amounts” of nonwhite ancestry will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The firestorm at Auburn won’t likely die down any time soon, as Richard Spencer, an infamous white supremacist who is frequently called a neo-Nazi, is slated to speak on campus Tuesday, he confirmed on Twitter. He will discuss Trump, Syria and the alt-right, he said, adding that his talk will likely be "wild."
Auburn released a statement Wednesday about Spencer’s lecture: “We strongly deplore his views, which run counter to those of this institution. While his event isn’t affiliated with the university, Auburn supports the constitutional right to free speech. We encourage the campus community to respond to speech they find objectionable with their own views in civil discourse and to do so with respect and inclusion.”