The University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced Thursday it will not expel a junior who reportedly claims to be “the most active white nationalist in the Nebraska area.”
Chancellor Ronnie Green cited the student’s free speech protection under the First Amendment.
The student, Dan Kleve, became a flashpoint on campus when a video circulated by the Anti-Fascist Action Nebraska group highlighted Kleve’s activities away from school, the Lincoln Star Journal reports.
Among those concerned are members of the Nebraska men’s basketball team who have decided to wear T-shirts before Saturday’s game against Rutgers that read, “Hate Will Never Win,” the Omaha World-Herald reported Friday.
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In the controversial video, reportedly gleaned from a Google Hangout used by white supremacists, the 23-year-old biochemistry student and five other men are discussing the future of white nationalism in America.
Kleve reportedly called himself “a regular person, just going to school. I am the most active white nationalist in the Nebraska area.”
The Star Journal reported that in the video, Kleve said that he might dress like a “normie” but that “doesn’t mean that I don’t love violence. You don’t have to look like a violent person to be violent.”
Kleve, said to be from Norfolk, Neb., also reportedly participated in the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., last summer where Heather Heyer was killed.
The video’s release kicked up an uproar on the campus that led to rally Wednesday against racial intolerance and anti-Semitism that attracted close to 300 people, including men’s head basketball coach Tim Miles.
At a press conference Friday, Miles, two of his players and women’s basketball coach Amy Williams said they plan to turn Kleve’s hate-filled philosophy into a positive message, the World-Herald reported.
The men’s team voted down a proposal to boycott Saturday’s game to protest the situation, Mills said. The players, the majority of whom are black, plan to make a public service announcement about bigotry to be shown at the game.
They began tweeting “hate will never win” on Thursday night.
“I love our guys, and I’m glad they’re able to stand up about the right things,” Miles told the World-Herald.
Some of the speakers at Wednesday’s rally demanded that the university expel Kleve; several students have expressed concern for their safety, fearing they will become his target.
In his email Thursday to students, faculty and staff, the chancellor said security on campus is his highest priority and that campus police and other “safety experts” are keeping an eye on the situation.
“I trust their judgment, competence and professionalism to manage this situation in a manner that protects the safety of all members of our campus community,” wrote Green.
He said he’d heard from many in the community, “and beyond,” calling for Kleve to be removed from the campus out of concern for safety, “outright disgust and rejection of the ideologies represented.
“Like many of you, I categorically reject the viewpoints represented in the video, which are rooted in racism and bigotry. That is my right to reject these disturbing views and it is your right to do so as well.
“The student’s viewpoint — however hateful and intolerant it is — is also protected by the First Amendment. That is the law, even if we disagree.”
He added: “Hateful words and speech, while protected, still have human and real consequences. Many of you have shared feelings of frustration and concern. Know that I hear you, the campus leadership hears you, and we stand by and with you.”
The Star Journal reported that Kleve publicly identified himself as a white nationalist in front of the Lincoln City Council in September when he opposed a resolution celebrating diversity that took a stand against hate and intolerance.
On Tuesday, Kleve posted a statement on the “Nebraska Alt Right” YouTube channel in which he said the controversial video was “horribly edited, put behind spooky music and was used as a way to kind of paint me as this Hollywood villain, or some sort of like domestic terrorist,” and that he never said anything about physical violence.
“When in fact the video was taken from clips of a conversation I was having with some skinheads where I was essentially highlighting the fact that violence does no good, that we should refrain from violence and be more self-disciplined,” he said.
“I also was trying to make the case that I am not a pacifist. Life is struggle, violence is a part of life. Our government has used, many governments, current and in past, have used violence for their agendas.”
In an interview with the Omaha newspaper, Kleve said he likes to push the boundaries of free speech and exaggerates for comedic effect, but feels the need to defend his heritage.
“People have classes with him, people have been frustrated, he’s open with his thoughts about people of color, or as he calls it, white genocide,” Sydnii Washington, a sophomore from Omaha, told the Star Journal.
“The teachers allow it and it makes students of color very uncomfortable.”
After Green’s announcement that Kleve will be allowed to stay on, more than 100 people vented anger and frustration at a university-hosted discussion on campus.
Unek Langford, a sophomore ethnic studies major, said it felt like the university was making excuses to protect Kleve.
“It shouldn’t be this hard,” said Langford, according to The Daily Nebraskan.
Donde Plowman, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer who led the discussion, said legal and safety experts within and outside the university concluded that Kleve does not pose an imminent threat.
“We don’t believe at this time that there are safety concerns that are a threat to students on this campus,” the university’s police chief, Owen Yardley, told the group according to the Daily Nebraskan.
Yardley said that over the past 17 years university police have been “very successful in handling situations like these.”