This year, Black Lives Matter protests have broken out at college campuses across the country. Typically, they call for an increase in black professors and black student retention rates. Seemingly in response, this past weekend, a crop of “White Student Union” pages were created on Facebook for at least 30 universities nationwide, including Florida State University, University of Florida, University of Central Florida, and Florida International University. But are there actual white supremacists organizing on campuses? Or were the pages created by a troll who was only aiming to provoke an outcry?
“Our organization aims to defend cultural diversity, partially by defending European culture and traditions,” a post states on the University of Florida's White Student Union's Facebook page.
New Times has reached out to the various accounts for comment.
Those that responded stressed a desire to remain anonymous due to threats they have been receiving.
After a White Student Union page was created at the University of Illinois, some suggested that internet provocateurs had created the page and that there was no actual white power movement coalescing on campus.
However, the moderators of the FSU, UF, UCF and FIU accounts insist they are being led by actual students.
A person who responded to an inquiry sent to the UF page says the group is real and was started by a group of four UF students. The moderator told New Times that "the university did not comment on the issue yet."
It wouldn't be the first time a white student union launched at a Florida university. In 1990, a White Student Union was launched at UF despite protests by campus civil rights advocates. According to the New York Times, the group was recognized by the campus and even eligible for government financing.
A moderator on the UCF account says the account was indeed created in response to the Black Lives Matter protests taking place on campus. "This page was started by current and former UCF students in response to the BLM protests taking place across college campuses, including one that took place on our campus last Friday," the moderator said. "We see an explicit hostility to white students and white culture in these protests, as well as their freedoms of speech and association. We don't want that extremism on our campus."
A spokesperson for UCF said that the school is aware of the Facebook page but that it has no official affiliation to the school and that there is no recognized White Student Union at UCF.
The person behind the FIU page claims to be a student and says s/he started the White Student Union to show solidarity with the other groups emerging across the country. The moderator says the page is not officially affiliated with FIU. "We advocate for equal treatment of all people. There's a Black Student Union in Florida International University even though they are a bigger minority than white students. White students only comprise about 10 percent of all students in FIU, whereas black students comprise around 13 percent. We want to have a voice."
A moderator for the FSU page says the page was created to provide a "safe space" for students to discuss white issues and "celebrate" white history. The moderator stressed it is not about white supremacy, racism, or intolerance. "I'm not even allowed to be proud of my heritage, to celebrate my ancestry, because it's deemed racist to celebrate white history," the moderator said. "White and Asian students are unquestionably discriminated against by universities in favor of less qualified minority students."
A spokesperson for FSU said that the site is fake and that there is no registered student organization at the school. The vice president of student affairs, Mary Coburn, tweeted yesterday: "We received info about a fake [Recognized Student Organization] using FSU marks. No such RSO exists, and we're reporting illegal use to Facebook."
Here are screenshots from the different pages:
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The pages have garnered limited traction on social media: 75 people "like" the UF page, four "like" the FSU page, 111 "like" the UCF page, and 62 people "like" the FIU page. Still, they have attracted a firestorm of criticism.