Within the last Month, Central Michigan University has seen two incidents of hate speech written on whiteboards outside the dorm rooms of both black and transgender students.
Officials with the University say one of those incidents may also have attracted the attention of a white nationalist hate group… posters from the group were discovered around campus in mid-November.
Central Michigan University President Bob Davies has denounced hate on CMU’s campus - saying he condemns bigotry in the strongest terms.
WCMU’s Ben Thorp sat down with CMU’s Chief Diversity Officer AT Miller to talk about how the university is responding.
Ben: Can you talk to me about what the university’s response to these instances has been? Were you surprised to see stuff like this?
Miller: Obviously you never want to have any student feel targeted or to have these kinds of things happen on campus. In a community of 20-thousand people, there are always conflicts and negative experiences that are going on. These have been happening, obviously, below the radar for years and years and years. I think recently because more and more students are knowing how to act. In this particular instance, a student walking down the hall saw the negative message, took a photo of it, erased it, reported it. So, of course, it comes to our attention and were able to surround the student targeted with support.
Similarly with the posters around campus again they were noticed right away, reported, removed. That’s the kind of proactive community we’re trying to cultivate. People don’t just ignore something, or say I’m not involved or something like that. We’re getting more and more a community that knows to act in these kinds of instances.
Ben: Are the instances increasing or is our attention to them is increasing?
Miller: We don’t know. In the era of not reporting, you can’t say how many instances there were. I would hope that this really is more about a greater confidence in our institution's response and ability to handle things and a greater education on the part of the community to act when things happen. But we also know that incidents like this have arisen around the nation, we are in a more negative climate, there is a sensibility that seems to feel freer to express this kind of hostile message. It’s probably a both and. There are actually probably more such incidents and they are more likely to come to light and have people act on them.
Ben: Both incidents were hate messages on whiteboards. Have you been able to track down the perpetrators and is there any way to know who on campus is doing stuff like this?
Miller: These incidents are investigated by OCRY, our Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity. Those investigations are confidential. They are ongoing investigations and there are a variety of means to follow up on these incidents.
Ben: Talk a little bit about this group that was posting posters on campus and how that came about. Did they come up here to post these white nationalist posters on campus?
Miller: The group is not a large group but it is a documented hate group by the FBI and we were actually in touch with the FBI. They operate largely through the internet so their materials are downloadable and sent through the mail and that kind of thing. So again, it’s not as if people jumped in some vehicle and drove to Mount Pleasant we don’t know that.
Ben: Meaning someone presumably in Mount Pleasant had to print them off and put them up?
Miller: Again we have no idea. Maybe someone in the state of Michigan that drove up here we... that’s not something we know.
Ben: Tell me what can be done and what is being done to reject these ideas on campus and to make sure that these communities, whether they be LGBTQ or the African-American students on campus, feel safe?
Miller: I think that we are working hard to promote and disseminate the values that CMU holds that are clearly spelled out in integrity and compassion and the many attributes that we hope our community embraces. I should mention that the hate group does follow these kinds of incidents around the nation and typically appears on campus at a time when an incident like this takes place. As I said, it was pretty clear both from the rally, the public rally that was held, and the expressions of support for our transgender community, that the vast majority of our campus rejects this kind of messaging and is totally on board with a message of inclusion and equity at CMU. We’re proud of that and glad that so many people are working in that alliance.