Three hate flyers featuring threatening, islamophobic messages have been found on campus bulletin boards over the last four days.
The first flyer was found on Thursday, Sept. 28 around 8 p.m. by The AS Review on an open posting board in Haggard Hall. It featured a photo of two men in front of a banner reading “No Democracy We want just Islam!” whom it referred to as scum and called for the extermination of.
On Monday, Oct. 2 (today) a handwritten note calling to “Execute Islamo-fascist terrorist scum + their lying, fascist supporters” was found by a member of the Muslim Student Association on the other Haggard Hall board, next to the bus stop, around 1:15 p.m.
In addition, another flyer on the board had been vandalized with a similar message, but had since been blacked out with pen.
A third flyer was found just after 1:45 p.m. at the other Haggard Hall board by The AS Review. It had the same image as the first flyer found and featured similar messages.
The flyers all appear to have similar handwriting and were written with a black ballpoint pen.
None of the other campus bulletin boards featured any similar messages as of Friday, Sept. 29 around 4 p.m. or Monday afternoon, Oct. 2.
Paul Cocke, director of communications and marketing, confirmed that University Police are currently investigating the incidents.
“Western is committed to providing a safe environment for students, faculty, staff and community visitors,” he said in an email statement. “To learn about freedom of speech, what is considered hate speech and other topics see Western’s Freedom of Expression & Assembly website.”
AS President Simrun Chhabra said there is currently a response team in effect and administrators are meeting to draft a statement. The posters disgusted her to her core, she said.
“Whether these posts are done by someone on campus or off doesn’t change the fact that the group they target need support and love and care now,” she said in an email. “This behavior is hurtful and destructive. Threats like this are malicious and we do not excuse them.”
She encouraged anyone affected by the threats to access the Counseling Center, Prevention and Wellness Services, or the Associated Students to connect to them to resources.
“It is clear that there needs to be efforts to educate our community to ensure threats like this do not occur in the future,” Chhabra said
Cocke asks that anyone who has information that could help identify who may be involved in the postings should be referred to University Police.
“University Police also is increasing its presence in those areas and is reaching out to Bellingham Police to see whether similar graffiti and messaging is appearing in the greater Western community,” he said.
Sue Guenter-Schlesinger, vice provost for Equal Opportunity and Employment Diversity, confirmed in an email that the Equal Opportunity Office has received reports of the flyers and is working with University Police to share information about the reports.
“The [Equal Opportunity] Office is happy to meet with anyone who has experienced a bias incident,” Guenter-Schlesinger said. “It is important that University Police or the EO Office be notified of any such incident so that Western can fully monitor and respond what is happening.”
The boards where the flyers were found are maintained and monitored by the AS Publicity Center and open to use by all students.
Publicity Center distribution coordinator Evelyn Sides said in an email she had not had any reports of similar flyers from distributors, but has since brought it to their attention to check the boards.
The boards are bound by Western guidelines for equal opportunity and affirmative action, she said. Western’s equal opportunity policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion.
“The distribution team is responsible for monitoring these things but also if students do encounter it, they can take them down and let campus police know,” Sides said. “Western does not stand for hate speech at all, and it is best to let campus police know because of the question of safety for students.”
College campuses have been targeted with white supremacist posters recently. In May, The Western Front reported on the appearance of flyers for a white nationalist group in downtown Bellingham. In March, the University of Washington was among dozens of universities targeted with flyers by white supremacist groups. The hand written nature of these flyers appear to set them apart from the printed posters used in those cases.
However, Lecia Brooks, outreach director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, a national nonprofit that monitors hate groups, told the Front that they had tracked an uptick in hate crimes since last year’s presidential election.
If you see more flyers on campus, or witness other incidents of islamophobia, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-290-9407
Editor’s note: We have decided to withhold images of the flyers so as to limit the platform given to hateful rhetoric.
[Photo: The posting board where the first flyer was found, seen Friday, Sept. 28. Erasmus Baxter // The AS Review]