White supremacist group targets Etown, spreads racist ideas

Melissa Spencer September 29, 2017 0

Diversity 2_Megan White

Photo by Megan White

Friday, Sept.15, the Office of the President sent out an email to the Elizabethtown College community addressing an incident that took place at the College earlier in the week. The incident, a combination of hatred, bigotry, discrimination and fear, has been identified with the group “Identity Evropa.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League’s website, “Identity Evropa” is classified as a white supremacist group that focuses on preserving white American culture while promoting white European identity.

Using the Internet and the distribution of fliers, posters and stickers, “Identity Evropa” spreads its beliefs mainly on college campuses. Our campus was no exception.

With the slogan, “You will not replace us,” “Identity Evropa” centers its beliefs in the preservation of the white race, idolizing the European/American white race over all other races and ethnicities currently mixed throughout the U.S.

Along with our college, CBS Philly and WSKG News reported that Millersville University and Stockton University were targeted by “Identity Evropa” last week, with the spread of flyers and stickers throughout their campuses. Several other colleges, including the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the University of Massachusetts-Boston, were targeted by “Identity Evropa” last spring according to the Boston Globe.

In the letter addressed to the college community, President Carl J. Strikwerda stressed the importance of safety and security to the College:

“When events like the recent posting of Identity Evropa propaganda surface on our campus, our community becomes understandably concerned and fearful for their personal safety. When it comes to the well-being and safety of our Elizabethtown College family, we will not compromise or waiver.”

Strikwerda also addressed the College’s commitment to its founding values of peace, non-violence and human dignity.

“That will not change. Our community is stronger than those who seek to divide us,” he wrote.

As of Sept. 15, both the Elizabethtown Police Department and the Northwest Regional Police Department have been contacted.

In addition, Campus Security is in the process of reviewing the available video footage, working to identify those that posted the flyers around campus. It is believed that the individual(s) responsible for posting the flyers and posters are not from within the campus community.

According to the College’s Daily Fire and Crime log, all cases of vandalism for the month of September are still pending investigation. Campus Security is also patrolling campus more frequently.

In addition to legal actions, the College’s Emergency Management Group (EMG) met Thursday, Sept. 14 to discuss the incident. This group, consisting of faculty and staff members, meets monthly to discuss various situations and creates different plans of action for incidents like this.

As they are continuing to monitor any further information related to the incident, current students at the College are also acting against “Identity Evropa’s” slogan, creating programs and starting conversations that reaffirm what our College stands for: peace, diversity, non-violence and social justice.

The College’s interfaith club, Better Together, has created positive stickers that state “We Thrive in Diversity.” Any students or clubs interested in getting these stickers may contact the club at bettertogether@etown.edu.

Strikwerda stated that this is the first recent incident of this kind to happen at the College, along with various other college communities within the past two semesters.

“Groups such as ‘Identity Evropa’ are trying to give the illusion that they have a grassroots support for their organization,” Strikwerda said.

Although this investigation is still open and ongoing, the future course of action for the College is certain.

“The conversation is not over,” Strikwerda stated in his letter to the College community. “It will never be over as long as these issues continue to challenge our nation and the communities where we live.”

Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Marianne Calenda believes this incident is a platform for continuous conversations.

“I hope this incident keeps the dialogue going in a meaningful way,” Calenda said. “The conversations become part of our fabric, leaving faculty and staff in a better place to deal with diversity.”

So, what is next? Where can students and faculty turn to for more discussion and support about the “Identity Evropa” incident? As a response to a meeting with a group of concerned students, Calenda stressed the importance of the College’s commitment to its community’s safety.

“I would like students to have a better understanding of the EMG and how prepared they are for situations like these,” Calenda said. Calenda then proposed increased campus security patrol on campus, and a few new part-time patrolmen have been officially added to the Campus Security staff.

In addition to the new security staff members, the College has started a series of lectures and discussions to keep the conversation about diversity and diversity-related issues ongoing.

“The Trouble with My Name,” a lecture, which is part of the Spector series, featured Javier Ávila and his personal struggles with diversity-related issues.

“This series is a wonderful opportunity for students to hear firsthand this man’s experience,” Calenda commented. Along with the Spector series, many diversity discussion forums are planned for October and November, featuring discussion topics such as microaggressions and critical conversations.

Junior Rebekah Smith is a student actively involved in initiating conversation about the “Identity Evropa” incident.

“Our goal is to show more support for unity than is shown for hate,” Smith said. “We hope to drown out the negativity left on our campus by ‘Identity Evropa’. It is not our end goal to punish [those who support the movement]. This will only lead them to hate even more. Instead, we are offering these hopeless people a place in our community along with us.”

“Bigotry, discrimination, intimidation and hate will not be tolerated,” Strikwerda stated in his letter to the College community. “We will investigate thoroughly. We will deal with it swiftly and firmly. And we will ensure that our Elizabethtown College, with deep roots in peacemaking, continues to grow strong, even in the face of outside influences that seek to do otherwise.”

 

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