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Hate Messages Grow On Midwestern Campuses

Mark Schultz
Illinois Public Media
The Illini Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Champaign dedicated a new menorah in 2017. Made of steel and set deep in the ground, it replaced a version that was vandalized three times in two years.

White extremist propaganda surged by almost 60 percent on Midwestern college campuses last academic year. That’s according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League.

Of all the states in the ADL’s Midwest region, white supremacist flyers and stickers were most prevalent in Illinois. Fifteen incidents occurred at public and private universities and community colleges.

Lara Trubowitz, who has education-related roles at both the national and the Midwest region of the ADL, says the messages are meant to make minority students feel unwelcome.

“We know that when targeted populations on college campuses feel under threat that those are obstacles to academic success, so it ends up leading us into a conversation about academic disparities,” she said.

At Eastern Illinois University in Charleston and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, someone posted flyers and stickers saying  “European Roots, American Greatness.”

Trubowitz said there’s been a softening of white supremacist language and symbols, which could mask the intent of spreading hate.

“Once upon a time white supremacist propaganda would have said ‘keep the immigrants out,’ or ‘keep the Jews out.’” Now “it might say something like ‘diversity is destroying the nation’ or ‘white people, don’t you want your identity respected?’”

The incidents at Illinois university and community college campuses occurred between last September and May of this year.

Other campuses hit include Northwestern University in Evanston, DePaul University in Chicago, Rock Valley College in Rockford, Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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