FARGO — Students and activists are calling on North Dakota State University to act against racism at the school, and a Black Lives Matter leader warned that an apparent white supremacist group that's cropped up on campus could become dangerous.
With the support of the Dakota Chapter of the NAACP and others, the Black Lives Matter student organization at NDSU released a list of demands for the school Thursday, Dec. 10, on the steps of Old Main, which houses administrative offices. Included in the list was suspending those who participated in a racist group on Snapchat and marking the incident on their transcripts, as well as expelling students who mocked the death of George Floyd in a video.
“As most of you know, we have been ambushed by racial injustices this past week, but I want to make it abundantly clear that these were not isolated incidents,” said Allye Doyle, an NDSU senior and coleader of BLM NDSU. “Racism isn’t getting worse. Racists are just being exposed.”
Last week, hundreds of protesters marched around campus after NDSU students discovered the posts, which are at least a month old. University administration was alerted to the posts in early November but did not publicly address the posts until last week.
“Their inaction in the last week is actively contributing to the ‘hidden’ racist culture on campus, and until they decide to stand up and make a bold statement disavowing this behavior, it will continue to spread,” Doyle said.
The school has declined to discuss the cases or potential disciplinary actions, citing policy that protects privacy. In an email to the campus, President Dean Bresciani said he is appalled by the “conduct of students who engage in hate speech.”
However, he noted colleges have few tools to act on the matter since federal courts have said hate speech is protected.
Activists disputed that claim. They accused the school of not responding to racism quickly because the school doesn’t think it is a priority.
“There’s no reason they should not act, besides the fact that they just don’t want to,” said Aeshia Williams, a student athlete and BLM NDSU coleader.
NDSU said it values respect for all students. It also investigates and responds quickly to reports of racism, spokeswoman Bryn Rawlings said.
NDSU has formed a crisis response team, which has met twice this week to discuss how to improve campus safety and climate.
“The task force is working rapidly to identify strategies, establish timelines and assign people to lead specified efforts, including evaluating each of the areas of improvement that our students brought forward,” Bresciani said in a Thursday campus update.
The Dakota Chapter NAACP and Black Lives Matter leaders met with university administration this week, but Bresciani was not present. The Dakota Chapter released its own list of demands that included a meeting with Bresciani, creating a NAACP student chapter on campus and forming a civil rights board for Black, Indigenous and people of color. It also called for a student survey to generate a list of areas where the university could improve the campus climate for people of color.
“After these incidents at NDSU, it is now more apparent than ever that students at NDSU need this organization,” Dakota Chapter President Clarissa Van Eps said.
NDSU said it appreciates interest from community groups, but it plans to focus on working with students.
Apparent white supremacy group
Black Lives Matter and NAACP leaders also addressed a letter sent to Bresciani from an apparent white supremacy group, which called the president a “biased anti-white political operative.” The letter was signed by the NDSU European-American Student Union, but no name was attached.
“Our student group is large and well organized,” the letter said. “We will continue to recruit sympathetic European-American students to resist your anti-white policies.”
Forum News Service was unable to confirm the group’s authenticity.
The letter came after Bresciani addressed the campus about the racist Snapchat posts. It was meant to decry the “smallest effort toward positive change,” Black Lives Matter organizer Jamaal Abegaz said Thursday.
He asked Bresciani and all North Dakotans to stand up against racism and not be dismissive.
“You have a dangerous white supremacist movement forming in your city, and on a campus which is the jewel of North Dakota’s higher education system,” Abegaz said.
Williams said the battle against racism at NDSU is far from over.
“We are going to keep this conversation and we will not stop, no matter what,” she said. “We will not allow ourselves to be pushed out of this campus. We will not allow our white peers to keep walking over us and keep disrespecting us.”