MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee issues statement after white supremacy flyers found on campus

Photo submitted by Dalton Slatton 

Contributions by Andrew Wigdor / News Editor

Flyers advertising “Identity Evropa” were reportedly found on Middle Tennessee State University’s campus on Monday. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Identity Evropa is categorized as a hate group, and according to the Anti-Defamation League, the group is a white supremacist organization.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee issued a statement, which condemned the group, Monday evening.

I was made aware today that unauthorized posters and fliers promoting the group “Identity Evropa” were recently found on our campus.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated Identity Evropa as a hate group, and the Anti-Defamation League has identified it as a white supremacist organization.  Media reports indicate the group generally targets college campuses across the country with its message of white supremacy and preserving European identity.  They do so hoping that their demonstrations and hateful messages will spark confrontations that bring notoriety to their cause.

While the First Amendment protects the right to utter even abhorrent speech, it also protects our right to speak out forcefully against ideas and viewpoints that are contrary to the values of Middle Tennessee State University.  This campus is rich with the diversity found in our students, faculty and staff.  I am proud that our community celebrates and supports the differences among us, as we also seek to build upon our commonalities.   There is no place here for hateful rhetoric that diminishes any member of the MTSU family.

We strongly condemn the views of white supremacist, neo-Nazi and other hate groups.  While we will respect the right of free speech when exercised within the policies of the university, we will also continue to work to make our campus as safe as possible and to advance the values of our True Blue Pledge. Those values commit us to reason, not violence; to both listening and speaking; and to our membership in this diverse community.  We will maintain our focus on the enrichment that comes to our campus through the wide range of backgrounds represented by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and we will refuse to give to hate groups the attention that they seek.

The flyers were reported throughout campus with confirmation of one being found at Lyon Hall, an on-campus dormitory.

The advertisements come just months after the vandalism of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and other reported hate crimes.

“In this country, where freedom of expression is enshrined in our Constitution, I have long believed that the remedy for speech that I disagree with or even find abhorrent is (more) speech,” said Debra Sells, the vice president of student affairs.

According to MTSU policy, signs posted on campus must adhere to a set of standards. Only registered student organizations, faculty members, administrative staff or other university-affiliated organizations are granted permission to post flyers or advertisements on campus. However, according to Sells, administration has “no information about who hung the posters.”

“We will … carefully monitor our university policies regarding postings of (flyers), reservation of space and gatherings of various kinds to make sure that we are doing all we can to help keep our campus as safe as possible,” Sells said.

Approximately 33 percent of MTSU’s student population is non-white. While finding advertisements for a white supremacy group on a diverse campus might be startling for some, for others, it’s a call to action.

“We are aware and doing whatever we can to prevent this kind of rhetoric from spreading through our campus,” said Raven Harmon, the vice president of the Black Student Union. The BSU is a group actively searching to be a safe haven for students of color, and member strive to live the organization’s values.

“We immediately thought about our members and wanted to grant them a sense of security through our organization, which promotes unity and diversity on this campus,” Harmon said.

The BSU issued a statement Tuesday afternoon denouncing Identity Evropa. 

The Black Student Union of Middle Tennessee stands behind President McPhee’s strong statement against racist propaganda and propagandist around our campus. We condemn groups like “Identity Evropa,” neo-Nazi and other hate groups, who only divide our True Blue community. As an organization that promotes unity and diversity, we see MTSU as a place where every student matters. We concur with Dr. McPhee, “there is no place here for hateful rhetoric that diminishes any member of the MTSU family.” If you see something, contact us at mtsublackstudentunion@outlook.com, or contact your faculty. We are here for you. Stay strong. Stay aware.

Identity Evropa supports the notion of a “white genocide,” according to SPLC. They specifically target college campuses, seeking recruits.

“White supremacy is not a True Blue value,” said Dalton Slatton, a Student Government Association senator. “My hope is that the students, faculty and staff of MTSU can unite in condemning racism and preventing Identity Evropa from organizing on our campus.”

According to Harmon, groups such as BSU and other multicultural groups will be meeting with McPhee on Wednesday to brainstorm solutions for the postings before “matters get worse.”

“A hate group intentionally promoting white supremacy (and) neo-Nazi speech is a completely different form of mental trauma and issue of safety for our members and other minorities,” Harmon said. 

Sells stressed the importance of living True Blue values as members of MTSU’s diverse community.

“(MTSU will) continue to showcase and learn from our diverse backgrounds on this campus, through programs, speakers and (one-on-one) interactions,” Sells said.

Follow Brinley Hineman on Twitter at @_briiindle. 

To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

For more news, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.

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3 Responses

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  1. Vanessa Neptune
    Oct 04, 2017 - 12:32 PM

    It is 2017, and America is still struggling with racial issues. It is very sad to think that there are some people in this world, who feel entitled and truly believe that they are better than someone else just because of their skin color. Since the beginning of America, there has always been racial issues and I believe that it will never go away.

    On October 3rd, MTSU’s campus was the newest target of a white supremacist group known as Identity Evrope. MTSU’s president, Sidney McPhee, released a statement to the staff and students of MTSU letting them know that the school condemns the actions of the hate group and that this school is proud of its thriving diversity.

    According to Southern Poverty Law, there are currently 917 active hate groups in America. I, along with many other Americans believe that ever since president Trump announced his plans to run for office is the reason why so many hate groups are active now. Trump’s rhetoric is very extreme. During his rallies, he had promoted his followers to use acts of violence towards those who express different opinions or those who just don’t like him. Also during the White Nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, president Trump gave a delayed speech and refused to hold those who acted accountable and even went as far to say that some who attended were “good people.” In fact, trump took more offense to those gathering in support to take down historic statues related to slavery.

    It’s time that America bans together to fight racism. It’s not right for one to think they are more supreme than another based solely on skin color. America is rooted in racism, but we are now in a time where everybody is mixed; there is no such thing as a “pure race.”

    Reply
  2. absmtsuf2017
    Oct 05, 2017 - 12:54 PM

    I am proud to belong to a campus that has zero-tolerance for hate groups such as this. President Sidney McPhee’s statement emphasizes both MTSU’s values and diversity. As a student of media, I am glad that President McPhee included a statement regarding the freedom the First Amendment guarantees to those in this country. While the hate group is allowed to speak about their beliefs, we are able to speak strongly against these beliefs.

    Unfortunately, these white supremacist groups seem to have become more active within the last year, mainly because of the last presidential election. When things occur, such as white supremacist flyers being spread across a university’s campus, it is critical for the university to speak out against the values of the hate group in order to combat these extreme ideas. MTSU has done exactly that. Brining the community’s attention to this issue and speaking out against it makes a strong statement about the values MTSU deems important. MTSU is a campus that values diversity, and President McPhee made that clear in his statement.

    I love the statement Debra Sells’ makes in this article about how the remedy for speech we disagree with is more speech. I think MTSU is handling the situation well, as they are seeking solutions to the issue before things get worse. If President McPhee and other university officials were not taking this issue seriously, it would suggest that MTSU doesn’t hold true to its values.

    Reply
  3. MKRMTSUSPRING17
    Oct 26, 2017 - 01:58 PM

    I would like to take a moment to pay respect to President McPhee. He maintained a respectful stance despite the disgusting rhetoric that has been spread on our campus. As a fellow student in the media department, I also appreciated how he acknowledged the rights of other’s due to the First Amendment, but also made it very clear that MTSU has the right to share what the university stands for as a whole.

    One thing that I have always loved and appreciated about this school is the diversity that is found all over campus. As President McPhee said, this school celebrates the differences and uniqueness among us, while celebrating our similarities as well. Without diversity of race, ideas, religious beliefs, the list goes on, our university, community, and country would be nowhere near as rich in culture, opinions, or ideas. In short, our world would be much more dull and much less beautiful.

    I especially agree with Debra Sells’ s statement. The best way to remedy this hurtful rhetoric on our campus, in our community, and in our country is to increase, rather than decrease, our conversation. The university’s willingness, as well as quickness, to speak out against this issue proves that MTSU does not take this situation lightly and has the best interest for its students at heart.

    Thank you Middle Tennessee State University for celebrating your students, and for taking issues as this seriously with the safety and comfort of your students in your best interest.

    Reply

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