It’s been a year-and-a-half since the term, “alt-right,” burst into the American conversation. Although it has faded from national headlines it remains a nagging presence on college campuses. It is there that advocates of white supremacy continue to exploit their 1st Amendment right to spread hate and recruit conservative students to their cause.
Here are the latest dispatches from the front lines:
In Texas, where alt-right founder Richard Spencer set the stage for college confrontations with a speech at Texas A&M on Dec. 6, 2016, “a few dozen angry young white men, led by a teenager from the Dallas suburbs and emboldened by Trump have caused headaches at universities across the state,” according to the Texas Observer. In a special report the magazine traces the alt-right campaign to Nov. 9, 2016 — the day after Donald Trump’s election, when white supremacist flyers went up on at least seven campuses. There have been 59 reported instances across the state, many of them at Texas State University in San Marcos, a city between Austin and San Antonio.
The lead provocateur in Texas is identified as Thomas Rousseau, who formed the Patriot Front after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia led to a splintering of the far right. The group is said to have only 70 active members who wear masks when they demonstrate.
According to the Observer, Texas schools have been wary of cracking down on the group’s right to free speech, but at least two, UT-Dallas, and Southern Methodist University, have identified the perpetrators in an attempt to expose them.
In Corpus Christi, more than 30 racist posters were found on the campus of Texas A&M at Corpus Christi this last weekend, Their attack on Latinos, with texts such as “Rape-U-Gees not welcome,” struck a chord at the southern Texas campus where 48 percent of undergraduates identify as “Hispanic/Latino.” The school’s president denounced the leafleting.
By and large, U.S. courts have upheld the right for speakers like Richard Spencer to speak on college campuses. But that precedent has prompted many schools to find other strategies to deflect the alt-right. At Kent State University in Ohio, Spencer is weighing a lawsuit to overturn the school’s denial of a speaking permit on May 4. Citing “an exceptionally busy time…at the end of our academic year,” the school also required Spencer to find a university sponsor, such as a student organization or academic department. The organization that books Spencer has given the school until Feb. 9 to rent a college space, or face a lawsuit.
At the University of Michigan, where officials have wrestled with their obligation to allow an appearance by Spencer, the school announced last week that it will not host Spencer this spring semester, but will consider dates later in the year. Spencer will speak at Michigan State University on March 5.
At the University of Florida in Gainesville, where Spencer spoke last October 19, Alachua County has billed the school $302,184 for the cost of public safety. The charge includes $260,494 for law enforcement, $19,418 for fire-rescue units, jail costs of $4,918, and $15,829 for overtime and radios at its 911 center. Florida Gov. Rick Scott had declared a state of emergency to prepare for the speech — which was cut short by 30 minutes because of shouted opposition from those in the audience. Protesters occupied 456 of the 700 seats, according to the Miami Herald.