The Patriot Front, a white supremacist group, posted flyers on Trinity’s campus last night.
It appears that the Patriot Front showed up at Trinity University late last night or early this morning and put up flyers asking “Will your speech be hate speech?” and other slogans intended to persuade passersby to visit their website and consider joining their organization. Shortly after 10 AM this morning, University President Dr. Danny Anderson sent an email to Trinity Faculty, Staff, and Students describing the flyers as “advocating positions antithetical to Trinity University’s values”. He also noted that campus police highly suspect, but are still unable to confirm, that the flyers were placed by trespassers targeting San Antonio are universities.
Co-president of campus conservative organization Tigers for Liberty Isaiah Mitchell says that “the Patriot Front, like all white nationalist groups, views our Founding Fathers through the same skewed, oversimplistic lens that progressives do: they were white and racist by our standards, so therefore America at heart must be. The only difference is that white nationalists think that’s a good thing. They have no place in conservatism, where ideas and individuals matter more than the demographic groups in which they’re born.”
The University, rightly standing for the values of community and inclusion, has called on the campus, in the words of President Anderson, to send “the strongest possible message that hate will not be countenanced at Trinity University.” Political science professor Dr. Keesha Middlemass echoed Dr. Anderson, saying “I do not support any attempts to inflame racial tensions” and that “as a member of the faculty it is upsetting to know that an uninvited group is spreading hate on our campus.” Dr. Anderson’s email also encouraged anyone with information relating to these flyers to contact campus police at email@example.com or by phone at 210-999-7070 (non-emergency) or 210-999-7000 (emergency).
Manfred Wendt, Student Government Senator for the Class of 2019, said that “it is blatantly obvious that this was not done by members of the Trinity community.” He noted that while similar events at UTSA recently may have led us to expect this to happen at Trinity, “we all hoped it wouldn’t.” Even though there were a large number of posters put up on campus, they all seem to have been removed within a few hours of the campus becoming active in the morning, by a combination of students, faculty, and other members of the community. He also added that “they wasted a ton of time doing this, because no one at Trinity will be receptive to this hateful and divisive rhetoric.”
Chiara Pride, an activist supporting progressive causes at Trinity and in San Antonio as a whole said that she “trust[s] in the intelligence and heart of our Trinity students. I am confident that they can see through the hateful rhetoric of groups like the Patriot Front, I hope that they know that true patriotism is not forged in ‘fire and brimstone’ but from the unity of disparate groups coming together to advocate for healthy and joyful communities.” She also encouraged anyone interested in “progressive issue advocacy and nonpartisan civic engagement” to reach out to her.
Emily Bourgeois, co-president-elect of the campus group Trinity Progressives, provided the following statement on behalf of her organization:
“I want to make it abundantly clear that white supremacy and neo-nazism do not have a place on this campus. These fliers were a blatant attack on the very fabric of everything that we stand for as an institution of higher learning and, more importantly, as a community. It is imperative that minority staff, faculty, and students know that we stand alongside them. The voices of these few hateful individuals are loud and prominent right now, but this divisive rhetoric is aiming at creating controversy. It is important that we come together as a community to make it known that these views are not welcome on our campus. We cannot permit actions like this to continue. I am calling upon the administration to acknowledge that this specific form of hate, white supremacy and neo-nazism, is completely antithetical to the diversity that we appear to hold as a key facet of Trinity’s mission. It is time that our leadership and our campus show that we value the safety and quality of life of all of our students.”
These sorts of events often bring to the forefront of conversation the role that free speech must play in reacting to these ideas. While Trinity University is a private institution, and thus has broad discretion in determining what, if any, outside organizations can promote themselves on campus, the question is still important. Recently, at Southern Methodist University when Vanguard America, an organization similar to Patriot Front, placed flyers on campus, the school’s College Republicans chapter responded by condemning such heinous ideas, and noting that conservatives believe “every life has value and it doesn’t matter what color that person is.” It is not clear how Southern Methodist University is responding to the flyers placed at their campus, but the approach taken by student groups is one that should be emulated at Trinity as well. Isaac Ogbo, junior Marketing major and member of Tigers for Liberty says that he “understand[s] their right to express their beliefs,” but “vehemently oppose[s] their desire to post their ideology at a private institution in a deliberate attempt to spread divisiveness through this community.”
The Patriot Front, while seeking to style themselves as right wing, sees individuality, the core tenet of American conservatism, negatively. Their website says that “to see yourself fully as an individual is misguided, and lacks an ethical basis.” Individualism is not misguided, this view is. Barry Goldwater said in 1960 that “the conscience of a Conservative is pricked by anyone who would debase the dignity of the individual human being.” The Patriot Front, and any organization that elevates one race over another, is thus entirely antithetical to what true conservatives stand for.