CARBONDALE — An SIUC student has been publicly accused of belonging to a white supremacist, neo-Nazi group, known as the Traditionalist Workers Party.
A flyer naming and picturing the male student was posted at multiple locations around the Carbondale campus, according to SIUC spokesperson Rae Goldsmith, and was also shared online and via social media.
A group identifying itself as the Knights of the Flaming Circle claimed credit for identifying the student. The group described itself, in an email sent to the Southern, as made up of “local southern Illinoisans... Some students, some not.”
According to the anonymous group, the accusation is based on the analysis of more than 4,000 chat messages from an application called Discord, in which a poster named "Fash Dragon" described studying at the SIUC campus, used ethnic slurs against African-Americans and homosexuals, spoke of hating Jewish people, and posted photos including one of a shooting range target riddled with bullet holes and captioned “Rahowa (an acronym for Racial Holy War) Ready.”
The chats were linked to the student by means of posts including, “a selfie and an image of him playing the banjo,” the group said, as well as his statement in the chat records that he “was an SIU Carbondale student, studying forestry, who made the Dean's list in fall of 2017.”
Other chats by Fash Dragon mention an email linked to a man alleged to be the student’s father, according to the Knights of the Flaming Circle.
SIUC’s first official statement to students came in Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s blog on Thursday afternoon, where he rejected “the views of white supremacists, any other group promoting hate and all those who seek to demean and marginalize.”
Following the discovery of the on-campus postings, Lori Stettler, SIUC’s vice chancellor for student affairs, said she sent an internal email to "first-line staff" on Tuesday afternoon. That email was later leaked on social media.
“As many of you know, a flyer has been floating around social media which outs a student who proclaims to be a Nazi,” it read. “All students share the right of free speech, even speech with which we strongly disagree.”
Tomas Daniel Cortez, a junior studying cinema, was among the students frustrated with the letter’s measured language.
“From a legal standpoint, I understand that the university wanted to confirm everything and is limited in what it can do,” Cortez said, “But I do feel like when it’s something this extreme and worrying for people on campus, especially people of color and LGBTQ+ people, the administration should respond quickly and not be afraid to deny straight-up racism.”
In his blog, Montemagno also acknowledged that reactions from the SIUC and Carbondale communities have included, “requests that we remove the student and revoke any scholarship that has been awarded."
However, an investigation into the matter is ongoing, Goldsmith said, and even if the student’s alleged comments online are confirmed, such action is unlikely. Much of what is considered “hate-speech,” including racial epithets and expressions of racial hatred, is protected by the First Amendment.
“As a public institution, we cannot and do not ask about political or social views when admitting students or awarding any type of financial aid,” Montemagno’s blog stated.
The student may be academically deserving of scholarships and financial aid, Cortez acknowledged, “however, his views and actions go against our values and morals as a university, and I think that can be taken into consideration about whether this student deserves to represent the university,” as a scholarship recipient.
“We want to see our university flourish,” Cortez said. “Are his views going to drop our enrollment more or cause more issues on campus?”
This is the second time this week that a white supremacist group has become a topic of conversation on a local campus.
On Tuesday morning, 50 to 75 cars at John A. Logan College were plastered with “It’s ALRIGHT to be WHITE (sic)” advertisements from the Church of Creativity, a group that describes itself as “dedicated to the survival, expansion and advancement of the white race,” and is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
SIUC could not detail the nature of its investigation into the accused neo-Nazi, but did confirm that a student with the same name as the accused is enrolled at SIUC, studying forestry.
The student was named to the Dean’s List for Fall of 2017, receiving straight-A grades, and is from Glasford, Illinois, records show.