University pressures Facebook to shut down 'Illini White Student Union' page
November 19, 2015
Update: Campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the University will continue to work with Facebook to have the Illini White Student Union page removed from the site.
“It is disturbing and cowardly that someone would create an anonymous and senseless social media page specifically designed to intimidate others, including and especially our students. When we became aware of the page, we immediately contacted Facebook and requested that it be removed,” Kaler said in an email. “Facebook has been responsive to our requests, but the page continues to be reposted. We are continuing to work with Facebook to address this matter. We recognize that passions run deep on all sides of many issues, but actions like this are senseless and hurtful and do nothing to foster meaningful dialogue.”
Just hours after students gathered in front of the Illini Union for a black student solidarity rally Wednesday, an Illini White Student Union Facebook page was created denouncing the students and Black Lives Matter protesters as terrorists.
The page directly singled out activists and sympathizers to the Black Lives Matter movement, describing itself as “a new page for white students of University of Illinois [sic] to be able to form a community and discuss our own issues as well as be able to organize against the terrorism we have been facing from Black Lives Matter activists on campus.”
Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson sent a Massmail to students Thursday morning, calling the page “extremely disturbing.”
Wilson said the University asked Facebook to remove the page — it was taken down within three hours — and will continue to ask for the removal of any subsequent pages.
“We recognize the right to free speech, and we encourage you to exercise that right when you see examples of racism, discrimination or intimidation on our campus,” Wilson said in the Massmail.
Some students have told administrators the page, and the posts made, have caused them to feel unsafe. Wilson said the University must foster an environment “where we can build understanding by truly listening to each other; and where we can benefit from the ideas, talents and perspectives of everyone in our Illinois community.”
She said the University will continue to strive to promote respect and community on campus.
The page encouraged students to send in photographs of students who attended the rally on the Main Quad to identify “anti-whites,” and said it was dedicated to exposing Black Lives Matter’s “hatred for white people and police officers.”
Following Wilson’s Massmail, Jeff Christensen, University of Illinois Police Department, sent a Massmail stating the UIPD would continue to monitor the page.
“we know that incidents like this create a sense of fear and shake your confidence in the safety of our campus,” Christensen said in the Massmail.
Christensen said the University’s cultural and resource centers will be available Thursday, Friday and after the Thanksgiving break for students who need a support or a safe space for conversation. The UIPD will continue to monitor and investigate any credible threats.
The University released a statement condemning the creation of the page on Wednesday night. The University called the page’s posts “clearly… offensive to our university community.”
“(University administrators) have notified Facebook of the page and asked for its removal, as it violates the company’s own standards,” said Renee Romano, vice chancellor of student affairs, according to the statement. “We also are reaching out directly to those responsible for the postings notifying them that the usage of our name is in violation of our trademark rights and ordering them to cease and desist.”
The page’s creation comes in the wake of racially charged threats that were made against black students on Yik Yak at the University of Missouri after protesters successfully brought about the resignation of the university’s president Tim Wolfe. Two suspects who allegedly posted the threats – one of which stated “I’m going to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see” – have been arrested by the police.
The page was shut down at approximately 6:30 p.m. Wednesday night. It remains unclear whether the page was created by a student at the University.
If the creator of the page is a student, the University will not take any actions against them, said campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler, citing the creator’s first amendment rights.
Nevertheless, the University denounced the content expressed on the Facebook page.
“Posts and pages such as these stand in complete opposition to the values of mutual respect and community that define the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,” Romano said. “While they may be protected exercises of free speech, they are offensive, divisive and stunningly narrow-minded expressions.”