Augusta University students call for unity after white supremacy posters raised on campus

Published: Nov. 18, 2016 at 12:04 AM EST
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News 12 NBC 26 News At 11 | Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- It's been happening on some campuses across the country since election day. Now students at Augusta University are calling for unity after posters appear promoting hate and white supremacy.

The AU family is now trying to pull together instead of letting these posters divide them.

At first glance, it looks like another torn sticker from a normal streetlight. But just hours before, a controversial sticker held its place on the Augusta University pole before being being ripped off.

The sticker depicted an interracial couple, a black man and a white woman, covered by a giant no symbol.

White Pride is the subject of it and three other posters that were discovered by students on Augusta University's Summerville campus Thursday morning.

One poster depicted a white family being surrounded by dark arms, with the caption, "Not seeing the America you want? Start changing it today!" One arm contained the initials "BLM," likely referencing the Black Lives Matter movement while another contained the initials "LGBTQ."

Seniors Meggie Kotson and Kathryn DelGenio found the posters and were outraged.

"Even though I was really sad and scared and disappointed," Kotson says, "I wasn't necessarily surprised because I have heard of these things happening on college campuses across America since the election."

Kotson is one of several gay students on campus and says there's always been a sense of care and protection for all students at the college. But she says these posters could generate more hate.

"As much as we try to support each other and comfort each other," Kotson says, "I think an incident like this kind of pushes back against that. Everything that we are afraid of, all of our fears, it's come true in a way."

But support is not far away for students afraid of what these posters could bring. Ruth McClelland-Nugent and Sandrine Catris, two history professors, say they've already received calls and text messages from students concerned about the meaning behind these flyers.

"They want us to be silent, they want to scare us," says Professor Catris, a two-year professor. "I think that the message that we need to get them is that we do not support hate on campus."

Professor McClelland-Nugent, who's been here 11 years, agrees in calling it all nothing more than a scare tactic.

But she says the message of hate won't spread through campus as long as all students and faculty stand united.

"LGBTQ students, students of color," says Professor McClelland-Nugent, "they don't have the luxury of saying, 'Well maybe it's a joke. Maybe they don't mean it.' We do have to support each other and I would hope everybody take it seriously and speak out against it."

Even as the posters are torn down, Lotson just hopes this campus stands strong in the days and weeks to come.

"I really just hope people don't stay quiet about this," Lotson says. "This isn't what Augusta University stands for. This isn't what our school is built on."

Two different websites were mentioned on those posters. One leading to an alt-right blog while the other leading directly to an online store selling Neo-Nazi clothing and flags.

Augusta University later released a statement condemning the signs, saying hateful and biased messages are not something supported by the school.

In part, it reads: "Individuals who engage in hate or bias acts that violate our expectations for healthy discourse do not represent our ideals and are exhibiting behavior which is inconsistent with the tenets of Augusta University. A safe and welcoming environment is our paramount objective."

School leaders are not sure who was behind these posters, but are currently investigating the incident.