DeKALB — NIU has been added to the list of what the Southern Press Law Center approximates to be 241 college campuses nationwide that have been targeted for campaigning purposes by hate group Identity Evropa.
The posters, upon which were written phrases like “action, leadership, identity,” hung in various locations across campus. Stickers and cards were also distributed to promote the group, which spokesperson Lisa Miner said is not affiliated with the university in any way.
“I encourage us all, especially in times like now, to embrace civil and respectful discourse and continue to embrace and create opportunities that foster diversity, equity and inclusion,” acting President Lisa Freeman said in a Oct. 17 campus-wide email in response to the postings.
NIU officials removed the posters, stickers and flyers because they violated the campus posting policies, which limit posting to Student-Assocation-recognized student organizations and require posters to be approved by Student Involvement and Leadership Development officials.
Additionally, the Student Involvement and Leadership Development director can withhold approval of a posting if it is deemed “obscene, offensive or discriminatory to a portion of the university community, or which advertises an event which is illegal or unlawful,” according to the policy.
The law center, which is a nonprofit legal advocacy organization, labeled Identity Evropa as a hate group.
The center determines whether this label is appropriate based on if a group “dehumanizes an entire group of people based on their immutable characteristics,” Brooks said.
Identity Evropa, founded in 2016, promotes the idea that the existence of diversity constitutes “white genocide,” Brooks said. The group began as an online-based organization but has since transitioned to engaging in community outreach. With the transition came the Project Siege campaign, which involves posting on campuses to raise awareness of and recruit for the organization.
The group also promotes the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and participated in the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally Aug. 11.
Sophomore communication major Azja Fragizer said she finds the presence of such a group on campus unsettling.
“It’s disturbing that people are wanting to hate,” Fragizer said. “We need to be positive and respectful. Everybody has their opinion, but we have to be respectful.”
The law center’s recommended course of action involves the removal of any type of posting from a hate group and the release of an internal message to the university community about the incident. Brooks said while some university officials have chosen to remove Identity Evropa’s postings, such as those at NIU, others have refused to do so because of concerns about free speech.
Alison Griffin, senior political science major, said it is important to have a campus environment where these voices can be heard and rather than inspiring hate, they inspire discussion and education.
“Technically, they have the right to say what they believe,” Griffin said. “But as students, we have to stand against them. It is important to set a standard of respect and not let things escalate to violence or allow one specific group to be targeted.”
Brooks said an effective way for students to combat the presence of such hate groups is launching some type of counter campaign that promotes diversity.
“I’ve seen some schools launch their own counter campaigns like ‘we are one’ — whatever kind of resonates with their diversity and inclusion initiatives [and] something that shows they stand together,” Brooks said.
Representatives from Identity Evropa did not respond to a request for comment.