Swastikas, confederate flags, and posters with the words, “revolution is tradition” and “one nation against invasion” have been seen across college campuses in Utah.
An influx of discriminatory propaganda has spread throughout campuses in recent years, but Salt Lake Community College is committed to ensuring student safety and comfort.
Discrimination can be a bias or intolerance toward any sexual orientation, race, religion, age, gender, or physical or mental ability. Discrimination on college campuses can be shown through posters hung in public spaces, rallies for groups on campus, verbal abuse, or social media.
In 2018, the SLCC student body included 31.1% students of color, the largest non-white population for schools in Utah’s System of Higher Education. Among these students, many identify with a variety of sexual orientations and religions, or none at all.
It is important for all students to understand campus policies and what rights students have when they experience discrimination.
As of May 2018, SLCC released a campus speech policy, which details what is allowed on campus and why. In part, it reads:
Salt Lake Community College values academic freedom and supports and encourages the exchange of ideas within the college community, including ideas that may be unpopular or controversial. At the same time, the college encourages civility and has the obligation to address issues of safety and illegal acts. The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not mean that individuals or groups may say whatever they wish, whenever they wish, and wherever they wish.
The college will take action if a protest violates the law, specifically defames an individual person, or qualifies as unlawful discrimination.
Anyone is allowed to practice free speech on SLCC campuses, but the posting of fliers and other propaganda without permission is not allowed. It is considered vandalism and will be removed, regardless of the First Amendment.
Posters with hurtful sayings in public spaces are typically easy to remove, but some groups, like Patriot Front, also use stickers to make sure their message is stuck to telephone booths, windows and poles.
The Anti-Defamation League describes Patriot Front as a “white supremacist group, whose members maintain that their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it solely to them.” The ADL also says the group “espouses racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance” through its messages.
Brigham Young University student Ethan Walker also saw Patriot Front posters at the Provo campus and says he was sickened by them. He called for help from his fellow students on Twitter, where he posted pictures of the posters, informing students to remove them and for the administration to take action.
Hey guys, white nationalists are posting propaganda on @BYU campus. These come in the form of stickers advertising a group called Patriot Front. This is a white nationalist group advocating for the creation of a white ethnostate by revolution.
— Snowy Ethan (@ethanmwalker) November 26, 2019
“I do think that schools should take action. What actions should be taken may be debatable, but I think something should be done to oppose white supremacy or racism in any form. People in power have an obligation to use that power for good,” says Walker.
In response to the firestorm that followed Walker’s tweet, BYU sent out a series of tweets condemning the act.
“White supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful, and we condemn them. Church members who promote or pursue a ‘white culture’ or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church.”
— BYU (@BYU) November 27, 2019
Walker was comforted by his school’s response.
“I appreciated the fast response from BYU and I’m grateful that the wording of their message was so strong,” he says.
Students at SLCC responded similarly when Patriot Front plastered posters around campuses in February 2019.
To prevent these types of postings around SLCC campuses, the college developed rules and regulations about discrimination.
According to the SLCC website, students can file a grievance based on “an act or threat of intimidation, act or threat of harassment, act or threat of physical aggression, act or threat of sexual assault, discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, age, race, color, national origin, religion, veteran status, or disability.” These acts are punishable by campus officials, including suspension, expulsion and criminal charges.
Students who are experiencing these things are encouraged to speak up. The Gender and Sexuality Student Resource Center has strategically placed signs around campus to let students know that it is a safe space, both physically and emotionally. The posters are outside of different offices on campus, and they allow students to know that the person residing in that office is an ally and can help with a variety of problems.
According to GSSRC coordinator Peter Moosman, to obtain a sign outside their door, an individual must “take part in two required trainings to be able to serve the school’s community. The trainings include role playing so they know what to say, when to say it and how to best point students in the right direction for more help.”
Campus allies suggest students should still report a crime through the online portal or by contacting the Utah Highway Patrol.
The Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs also helps to create a safe environment by providing resources and support for under-represented students, including educational initiatives that promote inclusivity and understanding.
In many ways, SLCC faculty and staff reflect the diversity of the student population. Professors receive training on where to direct students for help, as well as knowing where to direct each other, as co-workers.
Although the faculty is mostly composed of white professors, there are some measures being put in place to create more diversity through the hiring process. James Singer, a professor of sociology and a Diversity Fellow at SLCC, feels that administration is headed in the right direction.
“SLCC is aware of the built-in discrimination in higher education institutions. There are many barriers that have been in place for many years throughout the United States for students of color communities,” says Singer, who is an Indigenous American. “[But] we are improving. Students of color graduates are increasing and so is enrollment. We are changing.”