UI students push for change on campus

By Marijo Enderle

The creation of an “Illini White Student Union” Facebook page — created on Nov. 18 — gained national attention and sparked responses and new initiatives from University administrators.

The Facebook page denounced black students and Black Lives Matter supporters as terrorists after they had just participated in a Black Student Solidarity Rally on the Main Quad.

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.”

The page further 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.”lb

Similar White Student Union Facebook pages were created at over 30 universities nationwide, including the University of Missouri, New York University and Pennsylvania State University.lb

In the weeks since the group’s establishment, Black Lives Matter and black solidarity rallies have been held on the Quad to address the White Student Union and to share experiences with discrimination on campus.

Additionally, Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson outlined the steps that the University would take in light of recent events of “racism and discrimination” on campus, including a mandatory diversity workshop for new students, diversity training for employees on hiring committees, increased undergraduate scholarship support and the allocation of $4.9 million for a new facility for the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center that will open in 2018.lb

Wilson also announced the search for a new associate chancellor for diversity efforts and initiatives that will launch in January.

In a separate Massmail sent the day after the page’s creation, Wilson said that the page was “extremely disturbing.”

Wilson said the University asked Facebook to remove the page — it was taken down within three hours — due to copyright infringement 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.

Following Wilson’s Massmail, Jeff Christensen, University of Illinois Police Department chief, sent a Massmail stating the UIPD would continue to monitor the page and investigate any credible threats.

“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.

The University released a statement condemning the creation of the page on the night of its creation. 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.”

It remains unclear whether the page was created by a student at the University.

Robin Kaler, campus spokeswoman said the University in no way supports the page or the creator; however, if the creator of the page is a student, the University cannot take any action against them due to 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.”

[email protected]