A “Patriot” group that some say appears to be neo-fascist has been looking for new members at the University of Missouri campus in Columbia.
On Wednesday, university officials warned students in a campus memo about the recruitment efforts of white supremacist groups at colleges across the country.
“We are aware that white supremacist groups are recruiting on college campuses across the U.S.,” the memo said. “If you become aware of any activity that might violate university policies, please contact the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX.”
The memo was sent after MU officials spotted flyers around campus that read, “Looking for Young Midwestern Patriots.” The fliers displayed what the Southern Poverty Law Center and others who monitor extremist groups have identified as a neo-fascist symbol.
Christian Basi, university spokesman, said the flyers are the only evidence officials have seen of an attempt to recruit MU students.
Joshua Kranzberg, an assistant journalism professor at Mizzou, said in news reports that he hadn’t seen or heard anything about white supremacist groups trying to recruit on campus. But he added that “hate and division have no place here at Mizzou, and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep my students safe.”
Basi said the safety of students on the campus is primary. He said the university supports free speech and is not opposed to any groups “engaging in peaceful demonstration in public areas on the campus.”
However, he said, “if hostility or what constitutes threatening behavior” would occur, “we would access the situation immediately and address the situation accordingly.”
That could involve campus police if laws are being broken and administrative action if campus policies are being violated.
Lecia Brooks, who handles outreach for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said she was not surprised white supremacist groups would recruit on the MU campus.
The groups “target those places where they can get the most attention,” Brooks said. “MU is an easy target,” she said, as the university tries to pull itself back together after the racially charged student protests in the fall of 2015 sorely damaged Mizzou’s reputation. Enrollment is down, and funding is tight.
The peaceful protests, which ended with the University of Missouri System president resigning and the MU chancellor stepping down, were led by black students who said they were marginalized on the campus by a systemically oppressive administration.
Brooks said that universities like MU now touting beefed-up diversity and inclusion have become the front-line for extremist groups in “their battle against multiculturalism.”
“There is no need to recruit on a campus that has no diversity,” Brooks said.