White Student Unions
White Student Unions are student organizations that aim to represent the interests of white students on university and college campuses. Historically, many of them were white supremacist in nature and associated with the white separatist movement, though some modern ones disavow any connection to it.
In 2015, a sudden eruption of Facebook pages that said they represented such organizations was sparked by a call from Andrew Anglin of the neo-Nazi blog The Daily Stormer and by posts on 4chan. Few of the resulting organizations have official status on university and college campuses or an organized membership, with many only existing as unsubstantiated claims in social media; coverage has generally described them as hoaxes, often by people who did not even attend the schools they claimed to represent.
1960s and 1970s
The first White Student Unions and similar organizations were initially born of the white separatist movement. In the 1960s, a White Student League was formed by white supremacist Tom Metzger and his father, but it dissipated in the 1970s. In 1979, Greg Withrow incorporated Metzger's Aryan Youth Movement into the White Student Union as a "militant extension of the student struggle." Sacramento State University started the first one, and it extended to as many as 20 chapters across the United States.
1980s and 1990s
White Student Unions were organized at Temple University in 1988 and at Florida State University in 1989. Temple University "was forced to recognize it because it already recognized a host of all-minority institutions," Dinesh D'Souza wrote in 1991.
In 1992, a White Student Union, with "avowedly White supremacist goals," was formed at the University of Minnesota. The university banned the group, but after debates about the First Amendment, the ban was lifted and the group was allowed to register as a student organization.
In November of 2015, a number of White Student Union pages emerged on social media platforms such as Facebook, many apparently in response to a call to action by Neo-Nazi blogger Andrew Anglin of The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website, who called for his readers to create pages for many different schools, even for colleges they do not attend. Many of the pages also seem to have been hoaxes coordinated on 4chan; sources have described posts there instructing users to create the pages and take screenshots of the reaction, and compared it to similar hoaxes the website produced in the past. Most coverage has described these as hoaxes, and many universities have responded by contacting Facebook to have the groups removed or have asked that online groups remove any university insignia. The University of California, for instance, later sent a mass email to all then matriculated students over the controversy caused by the pages allegedly representing schools nationwide. The UC system, among other institutions, stated that the pages were not created by or on behalf of any members of the student body they claimed to represent.
Facebook received numerous complaints and reports regarding the pages, and some of them were eventually taken down for violating the site's community standards; many others remained, but remained mostly inactive since shortly after their creation.
The people behind these Facebook accounts said the organizations were real and that they were the product of students on campus who wanted safe spaces for white students who feel stigmatized and silenced; but their pages and organizations were generally met with skepticism over their nature, purpose, and goals. While the creators of the initial string of pages have yet to be identified, some schools experienced "copycat" pages being created by actual members of the student body. One such individual, Matthew Heimbach, who says he is the founder of the White Student Union at Towson University, for example, says that he is not racist; but critics point to his group's patrols against supposed "black predators" as evidence of racism. Defending the patrols, Heimbach writes that "White Southern men," he wrote, "have long been called to defend their communities when law enforcement and the State seem unwilling to protect our people."
Contacted anonymously, the people behind the Facebook pages have generally denied a connection to The Daily Stormer or to Andrew Anglin's call to action, though they generally declined to identify themselves or provide proof that they were members of the schools they named. While they denied an association with racism or white supremacy, many of them said that they felt that whitehood was stigmatized or under attack; some said that their organizations contained non-white members.
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- Zanna, Mark P.; Olson, James M. (2013). The Psychology of Prejudice: The Ontario Symposium. Psychology Press. p. 51.
- Kate Dubinski, Postmedia Network (24 November 2015). "'White Student Union' Facebook group stirs controversy, skepticism on Western University campus - National Post". National Post. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
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- ABC News. "Facebook Pages Purporting To Represent 'White Student Unions' Spark Backlash On College Campuses". ABC News. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
- "Public Statement on Campus (Un)Safety by some concerned graduate students at the Institute of Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice". Retrieved 15 December 2015.
- Enzinna, Wes (January 22, 2014). "White Student Union". VICE. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
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- "No, Your College Probably Doesn’t Have a ‘White Student Union’", chronicle.com This article contains an attachment with a list of WSUs and their Facebook pages.