Posters (shown above) will go up in Dulles Hall in response to fliers that have been interpreted to include white supremacist messages. Credit: Courtesy of Daniel Winuwe Rivers

Professors are taking a stand for diversity and inclusion after what they say are white supremacist messages appeared in the halls of several Ohio State departments.

Fliers promoting apparent white supremacist messages have been found across departments within the College of Arts and Sciences, including English, history, geography, and African American and African studies, Daniel Winuwe Rivers, chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee in the Ohio State history department, said.

Rivers said the fliers first came to the history department’s attention Nov. 3 — a Sunday — when the fliers were found on offices on the first floor of Dulles Hall. The English department sent out a statement the week of Nov. 4 to its undergraduate and graduate students after fliers stating, “It’s ok to be white,” “It’s ok to be Christian,” and “Islam is right about women” were found posted around the department, according to the Anti-Hate Resources and Action Network at Ohio State’s website.

“The first two statements may look innocuous on the surface, but, taken together, the [fliers’] purpose is to make white supremacist ideas regarding race, religion, and patriarchy sound like common sense,” the statement reads. “Implying that whites, Christians, and heterosexual men are under attack, they target places like universities for promoting ideas of social justice and for challenging various forms of social oppression.”

Gretchen Ritter, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said in an email that the college is reaching out to affected faculty and working with the administration to address the issue.

“The fliers are deeply disappointing and contrary to our values as a community, We want everyone who is here – as a student, staff or faculty member – to know that they are seen and valued for who they are, regardless of their ethic, racial, religious or national backgrounds,” Ritter said. “Our diversity is critical to our excellence in both research and education.”

The fliers were plain white with simple wording, according to the website. No group has claimed responsibility for the messages, but Robin Judd, associate professor of history, said the use of fliers and the wording is in line with white supremacy’s historic tradition of using signs with intimidating language.

“Since the early 2000s, we’ve seen a number of white supremacist groups using the language around ‘it’s OK to be white’ or ‘it’s OK to be Christian’ and those groups have taken attribution for doing so,” Judd said.

She added that the second reason it can be assumed the fliers have white supremacist messaging is because of the historic tradition of claiming space.

“To claim it and to claim space with placards — that we can see multiple times in history when different groups motivated by hatred have used some sort of signage as a way to make the individuals in those spaces feel unsafe,” Judd said.

Judd gave the posting of swastikas outside of synagogues as an example of signage being used to intimidate certain groups of people.

According to a Nov. 5 post on Inside Higher Ed’s website, posters and stickers with the same messaging have been found at Christopher Newport University, East Tennessee State University, Susquehanna University, Western Connecticut University and Oklahoma City University’s law school this year.

Similar posts appeared around this time in 2018 across the country, according to a Nov. 5, 2018, article on Higher Ed’s website.

Rivers said the history department’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee has developed posters to hang in Dulles Hall this week in response to the fliers, and the department is planning a large-scale town hall meeting on these issues next semester.

“The most critical part of taking this space is to really show the students that we support them — the undergraduate students and the graduate students — that we support them in their struggles against white supremacy on campus as it sort of emerges and rises up in the last few years, and that we consider Dulles Hall at the history department to be a safe space and a place that does not tolerate racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, antisemitism, Islamophobia, or other forms of sort of exclusivity and hatred,” Rivers said.