In a moment of unity on the University of Wisconsin campus, student organizations from both the liberal and conservative camps have stepped up to denounce the “alt-right” movement.
After UW student Daniel Dropik announced his intentions of starting a Madison chapter of the American Freedom Party, students and faculty members voiced their concerns of having an ideology on campus that, according to Southern Poverty Law Center, promotes “the rejection of political correctness” and “white identity.”
The “alt-right” has frequently been characterized as a neo-Nazi movement, with the Anti-Defamation League citing it as a hate group.
Several organizations on campus, however, believe his group’s presence will endanger the experiences of marginalized students.
While College Democrats’ spokesperson Eliana Locke thinks alleviating racial tensions on campus might be Dropik’s intention, she said how he’s going about it is unproductive.
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“By essentially dismissing a lot of these marginalized group’s concerns and opinions, he is actually furthering and creating racial tension and making LGBTQ+, women and people of color uncomfortable and feel unsafe,” Locke said.
Though their political views differ, both College Democrats and College Republicans have denounced the “alt-right” movement on campus.
Even though College Republican’s spokesperson Emelia Rohl said their organization supports free speech and Dropik’s right to speak out as long as he is not harming anyone, they don’t support what he says.
“We are a Republican and conservative organization with some people expressing strong conservative views, but they don’t express hateful views or views that align with the proposed UW ‘alt-right’ movement,” Rohl said.
In the same vein, Locke encouraged all other groups — both conservative and liberal — to distance themselves from the movement.
Young Americans for Freedom said they do not want to be associated with the UW “alt-right” because they do not share the same values, YAF Chair Kara Bell said.
Other student organizations do not believe Doprik’s intentions with his movement are sincere.
In an email to The Badger Herald, the Student Coalition for Progress said they feel the movement’s intent is to promote a white nationalist agenda and is harmful to our peers and campus.
In a statement, UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank said the university recognizes the possibility of this type of activity on campus is “concerning.”
But according to campus policy, handing out political information and expressing objectionable, even hateful, viewpoints is not illegal nor considered a violation, Blank said.
Associated Students of Madison has condemned Blank’s response to the situation.
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ASM Chair Carmen Goséy, Rep. Katrina Morrison and Rep. Brooke Evans released a joint statement calling on Blank to label the group as a white supremacy group.
“Chancellor Blank’s statement is a testament to how administrators outwardly show a lack of verbal and systematic support for students of color or minority identities,” the statement said.
At the moment, Blank said they have no specific information to indicate there is a safety threat to anyone on campus. Given Dropik’s criminal history of racially-motivated arson, Blank said they will be monitoring the situation closely.
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In an audio message on his website, Doprik confirmed his conviction and that he “regretted these violent and wrong acts.”
“I regretted these [actions] long before I decided to be a student at [UW] and long before I had an interest in the ‘alt-right,’” Doprik said.
In addition to admitting to his criminal history, Doprik disclosed he was dealing with mental illness at the time, although he said it was “still not an excuse” for his actions.
In light of the current situation, Blank said she will request the Board of Regents reconsider reviewing the UW System’s current admission policy, which does not consider a student’s criminal history as part of the admissions process.
ASM called this possible change in policy “ignorant” and said it will not do anything to address the racism that is already on campus.
In an email to The Badger Herald, Dropik said his group isn’t motivated by hate.
“We aren’t anti-Semites nor do we hate LGBTQ+, but we support academic freedom,” Dropik said. “If the facts lead us to uncomfortable inquiries, it’s not by malicious design — and we will try to be as sensitive as possible while exercising our rights to pursue truth.”
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Many people, including the press, have mischaracterized the “alt-right,” Dropik said. He added there is a difference between “white nationalism,” “white supremacy” and “pro-white” — all of which could have different meanings with some, he argued, being opposite of each other.
In the last year, hate and bias incidents reports have risen. When assessing some of the more notorious incidents — including the noose incident at Camp Randall — Dropik believes the university “is guilty of taking sides on issues of race” and is “tilted against whites.”
Dropik believes it is time to try something different and the “alt-right” is something to consider.
“Considering the number of people already interested in joining, I’d say the ‘alt-right’ was already here before I arrived,” Dropik said.
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At least 10 to 12 students — including nonwhite students — have reached out to Dropik about joining his group, he said. Along with student interest, Dropik said he has also received hate mail and many threats.
In offering an alternative viewpoint to alleviating race relations on campus, Dropik hopes to reduce hate and bias incidents.
Along with reducing hate and bias incidents on campus, Dropik said another of his goals for his group is to establish liaison with all major ethnic advocacy groups on campus.
“We want good race relations on campus — that starts with trust and communication,” he said.
Dropik’s other goals include:
- Reforming punishment for hate-crime hoaxers.
- Calling for the Multicultural Center to stipend funds for studying and responding to anti-white persecution.
- Developing a curriculum that outlines the argument against race as a social construct.
- Developing a curriculum which explains the history of the political persecution of the far right.
“We want to support students who have been harassed and heckled for having beliefs which challenge academic orthodoxy of race, and other topics on this campus,” Dropik said.
A demonstration against the “alt-right” is scheduled to take place Tuesday at 5 p.m. on Bascom Hill.
Post updated at 12:59 p.m. to include ASM’s statement.