An attempt at a second year of racist campaigning on campus was dampened this year after increased vigilance by security and information services and technology (IST) services.
For the second consecutive year, posters with the phrase “It’s okay to be white” were found on the Fort Garry campus overnight on Halloween. Additionally, an email with the same message was sent to at least 11 faculty members this week.
The posters are part of a widespread white nationalist campaign that typically takes place overnight Oct. 31. They first appeared at the U of M in the fall of 2018. Stickers with the same message were discovered near the U of W in 2017.
The poster campaign originated on the online message board 4chan, where organizers encourage individuals to hang the posters anonymously in Halloween costumes. The goal is to use a simplistic phrase to “bait” those who respond to it into revealing anti-white sentiments.
Security services confirmed posters were found on campus again this year and security staff said they had been instructed to take them down.
It was also confirmed that a report has been filed as of Friday morning but posters were first noticed Thursday evening.
Assistant professor in the faculty of education Joe Curnow received an email that repeated the phrase six times and that was delivered to her and 10 other faculty members Thursday afternoon from a non-encrypted email address named “Pepe the Frog”.
She said she forwarded the email to vice-provost of academic affairs Diane Hiebert-Murphy, who said IST blocked the sender and is continuing to monitor for any additional emails.
Curnow said she did not see a pattern in who was sent the email.
“There are women of colour on the list, which I would expect. There are some of the faculty who teach anti-racist content, which I would expect. But then there’s also faculty for whom that’s not true,” she said.
Security services confirmed posters seemed to be spread randomly across campus.
UMSU president Jakob Sanderson released a statement to the Manitoban condemning the campaign, noting the union was conflicted about providing a further platform to those responsible by recognizing it.
“When we remain silent, we allow it to remain unchallenged,” he said.
“We must acknowledge its rampancy and its impact on our campus community, and on the safety of marginalized students.”
The statement will be posted in full through UMSU channels.
U of M spokesperson John Danakas said security services would remain vigilant.
“Security services are aware of what took place last year, and so they will be vigilant in their patrolling and are aware of certain things to look for,” he said.
Curnow said the incident was an opportunity for the U of M to emphasize its commitment to fighting hate on campus and beyond.
“I feel like it’s important for the university to speak out on this, and to be doing more proactive anti-racist work on campus,” she said.
“That’s more useful than trying to chase white nationalist trolls on campus.”