OGDEN (ABC4 News) – Weber State University students say they want better communication from administrators after stickers from a white supremacy group were found around campus this week.
“My heart just sank because it happened last spring and last fall. I was just like, ‘Again? We have to experience this again?’ It makes me sick. It makes me sad,” said JaLisa Lee, President of WSU Black Scholars United
“I was angry. I mean, I’ve seen this all over. But actually seeing it with my own eyes, it was really disturbing and there’s so many students of color on this campus that I’ve talked to. They feel like the campus is not doing enough to protect them,” said student Zach Thomas.
University officials told ABC4 News they first received reports of ‘Patriot Front’ stickers on Saturday. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Patriot Front is a white nationalist hate group formed in the aftermath of the deadly Charlottesville, Virginia rally in August 2017.
Adrienne Gillespie Andrews, WSU Assistant Vice President for Diversity said they took action immediately.
“The best way we can respond is by making sure our students, faculty, and staff feel safe. So we immediately set up white boards in our Union building to collect input and information,” said Gillespie Andrews. “We really want to make sure they have an opportunity to express how they’re feeling on campus. Do they feel safe? Do they feel like they belong?”
Thursday afternoon, Gillespie Andrews invited students to the Shepherd Union to have a conversation about what happened. They expressed frustration that five days later, university officials still hadn’t release a campus-wide statement about the stickers.
“It’s handled, but I don’t think it was like how other schools handled it. Like the University of Utah, they made it aware that this was not allowed and I wish statements would have been made,” said Lee. “I just wish the school would do more to advocate for these types of things, especially if they are being targeted towards multiple groups on campus.”
University officials said one of the reasons why they have not issued a statement is because they did not want to give more exposure or notoriety to the Patriot Front group.
“I agree with that. But it’s making this group think, ‘Oh, it’s OK because the school isn’t doing anything about it, so let’s keep posting these flyers and stickers,'” said Lee.
“I absolutely think that’s valid. We don’t want to give them more credibility or any more attention. But we absolutely have to keep our eyes on condemning this action,” said Thomas.
Gillespie Andrews said the university wants to focus on giving all students a platform to voice their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs so that they can work constructively to understand one another.
“We try really hard to create open forums for people to share their perspectives, including ones where there might be great disagreement,” she said. “We think the folks who put these messages up are unlikely to be students because we try to make it a safe space to have those conversations if those are the things that you believe.”
When asked about free speech, she said officials are committed to upholding it, but only when it’s done through proper channels.
“The speech that occurred this week does not fall into those perimeters. It was posted without any approval. It was posted inappropriately. It damaged property. When people are posting not only hate speech or speech that could be questionable without going through the proper channels, that has to be taken down,” said Gillespie Andrews.
In the discussion, students were told their input would be taken to the administration for considering what will happen next.
“It’s on the university’s shoulders to either release a statement or at least tell the students that they know this is going on and they’re taking concrete steps to take care of it,” said Thomas.