White nationalist literature found on bulletin boards, in classroom
The fliers appear to have been distributed by an outside organization
Sterling Heights senior Sarah Merrifield walked into Dow 135 for her fashion class Monday afternoon when she noticed some red, white and blue cards on the tables in the classroom.
“Some of the students saw them, but didn’t realize what they were,” she said. “We looked it up and realized it was a (Neo-)Nazi thing and then we all started freaking out.”
The posters included links to patriotfront.us and bloodandsoil.org. Both web addresses bring users to the Patriot Front website.
Patriot Front is a Texas-based white nationalist group, founded in 2017 by Thomas Rousseau.
The Associated Press defines white nationalists as people who “say that white people are a distinct nation deserving of protection, and therefore they demand special political, legal and territorial guarantees for whites.”
The manifesto on Patriot Front's website includes white nationalist phrasing such as:
"When our European ancestors first came to this savage continent they had a variety of purpose... From the varied nations and cultures of Europe a new nation was forged in the flames of conquest. E Pluribus Unum was the new creed that bound our people together with their pan-European identity as Americans. To be an American is to be a descendant of conquerors, pioneers, visionaries, and explorers. This unique identity was given to us by our ancestors, and this national spirit remains firmly rooted in our blood.
"An African, for example, may have lived, worked, and even been classed as a citizen in America for centuries, yet he is not American. He is, as he likely prefers to be labelled, an African in America. The same rule applies to others who are not of the founding stock of our people as well as to those who do not share the common unconscious that permeates throughout our greater civilization, and the European diaspora."
Merrifield said her professor, human environmental studies faculty member Ian Mull, took the fliers after class.
Mull said after class, he showed them to human environmental studies chairperson Tanya Domina. He and Domina contacted the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity (OCRIE), the Office of the Provost, and Education and Human Services Interim Dean Elizabeth Kirby.
Across campus in the Health Professions building, Hillman senior Riley Appelgren noticed the same posters on bulletin boards along the first floor.
She was clocking in for her shift as an anatomy teaching assistant when she saw one of the fliers on the bulletin board by the clock-in station.
“Then I back-tracked and realized they were on another bulletin board,” she said. In total, she found eight posters on the first floor of the Health Professions building and took them all to the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.
Appelgren said she found a "blood and soil" poster last spring in the North Art Studio as well.
Assistant Director of University Communications Ari Harris said it appears the distribution of the fliers was done by an outside organization, one not affiliated with CMU.
"Their stances are not aligned with the values of Central Michigan University, including integrity, respect, compassion, inclusiveness and social responsibility," she said.
Harris said the cabinet discussed the matter during its bi-monthly meeting Monday morning and agreed to dispose of the literature.
“In this case involving an outside entity, university leaders are removing and disposing of the materials in question, no matter where they are found,” she said.
Lt. Cameron Wassman from the CMU Police Department said the first report of these cards was on Saturday, Nov. 17. Staff from Charles V. Park Library called to report finding them tucked in books in the library. Other locations that have been reported to CMU Police include the Dow Science Building, the Engineering and Technology Building, and several residence halls, said Wassman.
On social media, students also reported seeing the fliers in the Bovee University Center.
"Nothing rises to the level of being a crime," Wassman said.
Journalism department chair Tim Boudreau, who teaches a journalism class about first amendment and free speech, said the literature doesn't appear to be criminal.
"There were no threats made, no illegal ideas distributed," he said. "No laws appear to have been broken."
He said the first amendment protects a lot of speech, even if it's offensive.
"The answer to bad speech is better speech," he said. "Don't cower in the face of bigotry."
Boudreau said disposing of the cards is unfortunate because it's a form of censorship.
"If there are time, place, manner restrictions that are content-neutral, that's one thing," he said, "but you can't apply restrictions selectively."
Harris said flyers distributed in residence halls must go through an approval process, but these did not. Any fliers that don't receive prior approval will be taken down in residence halls. Fliers distributed in classrooms are at the discretion of faculty members.
She said students who see any materials related to Patriot Front can report them to leaders in the area, including faculty members, employees at information desk and offices, resident assistants or residence hall directors.
Students can also contact OCRIE, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Counseling Center, Residence Life staff, or other staff if they need further assistance or support.
CMU Police are no longer investigating, since no crimes were committed. However, OCRIE is looking into it, Harris said.
As this was an outside organization, no disciplinary actions can be taken.