AUBURN, Ala (EETV)- Two students claim that a group calling themselves the Auburn White Student Union has started harassing them off campus.
The students, Alex and Lydia, who wish to be referred to only by their first names, say that they feel that the group has stalked them.
“Wake up and I see a sticker outside of my window, I didn't even see it first he [Alex] saw it and let me know and it’s directly outside of my kitchen window,” said Lydia, “and it’s just the sticker behind the stairs of the Auburn White Student Union.”
Alex and Lydia mentioned that orange and blue stickers stating “Auburn White Student Union” have appeared on outdoor spaces close to their apartment, something they say is especially unsettling given recent events.
“And they have the eagle which everyone else views as something Auburn-related, I feel that they might have fines and everything that you can’t use any Auburn propaganda or Auburn symbols in your propaganda that they wouldn't approve of,” said Lydia, “and so it’s like they’re still being allowed to use the eagle, it’s like does Auburn actually support them, is Auburn actually okay with having a White Student Union, because that’s not okay it’s not what I thought was going to happen when I came to Auburn.”
When the group first became visible last spring, Auburn University required the group to remove Auburn University copyrighted items from their website.
Lydia believes that some of the alleged targeting might stem from her activism promoting inclusion for those with disabilities and for speaking out against the on-campus speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer last spring.
“I feel that I’m also probably targeted because I try to be open and what not...and accepting of other people and a lot of differences,” said Lydia, “and so I guess that they don’t like that.”
The Auburn White Student Union, which according to Auburn University Assistant Vice President for Student Development Haven Hart is not an authorized campus organization, has been connected to out of state groups and white nationalist organizations.
In recent years, white nationalist leaders have increasingly tried to organize Auburn students and host events on campus. The most publicized instance was Spencer’s speech last spring. That event sparked a large counter protest hosted on the Campus Green by several student groups.
Other recent instances include flyers with hateful rhetoric being spread on campus and anti- semitic slurs written on the exterior sign of Foy Hall.
Alex and Lydia urged Auburn University President Steven Leath and University officials to do more to protect students and create a campus climate where opportunity for all exists.
“If I could just say one thing to the new president, it’s just at least make the appearance that you are trying,” said Alex, “like you’re going to play hard ball with people that speak in Auburn’s name who proclaims to be for everyone...there are things they can do to put pressure on this group and I just don't see that happening at all.”
In recent years Auburn University has made efforts to increase diversity and inclusion efforts on campus. Many actions stem from the Campus Climate Study and include the recent hiring of an Associate Provost for Inclusion and Diversity along with the creation of the Critical Conversations speakers series.
Auburn University Associate Provost for Inclusion and Diversity Dr. Taffye Benson-Clayton emphasized the recent efforts by her office to start conversations between different student and faculty organizations on campus.
“Auburn University strives to foster a campus community built on shared principles of civil discourse, respect, and intellectual discovery,” stated Benson-Clayton. “Inclusion and diversity remain at the forefront of our institution, and we continue to engage in meaningful programs that inspire constructive dialogue and foster civility surrounding these important ideals.”
Benson-Clayton also mentioned that this focus on inclusion and diversity, lead by the University, helps build upon and achieve the values of the Auburn Creed.
“Together, these efforts challenge our institution to continue fulfilling its mission of inclusion and diversity and fostering a climate that, above all else, upholds the Auburn Creed,” wrote Benson-Clayton.
In addition to asking the University to do more, Alex and Lydia also stressed the need for the City of Auburn Police Division to be more active in the community and to build more relationships with community groups and organizations.
“I’m terrified of the police,” said Lydia, “and I don’t do things that are wrong and just bad and I should be terrified of them, I’m just scared that they’re going to misinterpret something that I say or they’re going to just get mad at me for no reason.”
Captain Lorenza Dorsey with the Auburn Police Division said in a written statement that the division is committed to working in the community and building relationships.
“We engage with local schools, University organizations, focus and advocacy groups, local youth groups, and neighborhood associations,” said Dorsey. “We provide outreach in initiatives such as Dare, the “Bridges” program, National Night Out, mentoring with local youth, as well as interaction with a number of on campus organizations of all ethnicities.”
Dorsey stressed the importance that if any students ever feel threatened or fearful in any way they should contact the Auburn Police Division.
“The Auburn Police Division is community policing oriented, we address conduct and actions no matter the affiliation,” stated Dorsey, “we suggest anyone feeling targeted, threatened or unsafe, related to any group or individual, report it to police immediately.”