Posters belonging to the white supremacy group were found on announcement boards and on-campus busts Sept. 15.
A second wave of stickers belonging to Patriot Front were found on campus the morning of Sept. 15, four days after a community forum hosted by Dean of Students Jerry Price discussed the first sticker drop Aug. 26. The new stickers, posted on top of La Frontera flyers and some on-campus busts, were reported by Public Safety and taken down by members of Chapman’s custodian team.
Patriot Front, a white supremacist group that broke off of group Vanguard America after the Charlottesville, Virginia, riots in 2017, states in its manifesto that its “tradition is revolution, and our land is where tyrants come to die.” Public Safety officers are set to review security footage from the morning of Sept. 15 in an attempt to gain insight into the situation.
Neither Randy Burba, chief of Public Safety, or Public Safety investigator Clifford Williams were available immediately for comment.
“Not enough people knew about (the posters) and that was really disheartening to me,” said Sage Okolo, a sophomore film production major. “Seeing it on my college campus, where I am supposed to feel safe as a transfer student, is frustrating.”
Students gathered in the Cross- Cultural Center Sept. 11 to attend a community forum hosted by Dean of Students Jerry Price, designed to address posters and stickers placed on campus by Patriot Front Aug. 26. Students expressed their concerns about delayed communication from administration after the first posting, as they were officially informed of the issue through Price’s weekly email announcements on Sept. 9.
Posters distributed by extreme left-wing group anti-fascist (ANTIFA) appeared a day after the Patriot Front stickers. This led administration to believe the two extremist groups were inciting one another.
Seeing (the posters) on my college campus, where I’m supposed to feel safe, is frustrating.-Sage Okolo, sophomore film production major
Price told students that administration members have been communicating with ANTIFA since summer, after a blog post surfaced online naming a Chapman law student, David Zsutty, as a member of white supremacist group American Identity Movement. Zsutty, who has not responded to multiple interview requests from The Panther, has not been publicly verified as a member of the group.
Chapman relayed the information contained in the blog post to local law enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), but no sources were able to confirm the information. Price discussed how comments allegedly made by Zsutty on an online chat platform were “hurtful, ugly and derogatory,” but were non-threatening to campus. The comments included topics like the Jewish community, European genes and the politics of Southern California.
Administration feared that addressing the Aug. 26 incident would worsen the situation, as it could have drawn attention and encourage more extremist groups to come onto campus, Price said. He added that this could have led to a worse scenario, such as opposing extremist groups “using” Chapman as a location to advance their beliefs.”
Price stressed during the forum that Chapman is a “free expression campus,” but harassment, discrimination, threatening behavior and depriving someone of their rights to be heard would break school policy. Administration classifies harassment as a behavior towards someone, not supporting a specific ideology; however, the Patriot Front posters violated Chapman’s anti-discriminatory and posting policy, as they were placed on top of posters belonging to La Frontera.
Clubs supportive of any ideologies are allowed to exist on campus; however, they are required to not discriminate against any students who want to join.
A student voiced her concerns during the forum and said she was shocked that Chapman cannot prevent student organizations founded on “hurtful” ideology from campus. Being African American and Jewish, she said that the circumstances left her feeling like she has a “target on her head.”
“Hearing about these stickers going up makes me so uncomfortable and not feel as welcome as I would like to. If Chapman were to allow harmful groups to form on campus, I would really have to evaluate whether I felt safe staying at Chapman,” the student said to the crowd. “If there is a group that is affiliated with such thoughts and Chapman is allowing them to have a voice here, I would think Chapman is harboring that behavior.”
Price encouraged students to develop a community that is respectful to all cultures, as he said that students “are much more influential on fellow student behavior than the administration is.”
“I am a believer that (Chapman is) not just giving you an education, but training leaders of communities going forward. Asking ‘How is Chapman going to respond’ is asking you how you are going to respond. You are Chapman,” Price said.
Some students expressed concern at this comment, as they have felt that administration has left them to deal with situations on their own.
“There’s a point where students can only do so much before they start to feel that the university’s administration doesn’t support them. Everything that you are doing – speaking and advocating – can mean absolutely nothing and fall on deaf ears,” Okolo told to The Panther.
Natalia Ventura, lead student assistant at the Cross-Cultural Center, encouraged students to take proactive measures – like attending events based around culture and identity – instead of waiting for another on-campus incident.
“I could feel the anger from students, but the blame was pointed towards Price and administration. They didn’t put these things out and they reacted in what they thought was best for our campus,” said Ventura, a junior peace studies major. “Instead of pointing fingers at administration, we need to come together and fight any sentiment like that on campus.”
Ventura encouraged students at the community forum to become more involved with Cross-Cultural Center events to “create a culture of political awareness” and become more educated about the “different cultures on campus.”
“These events are spaces where you can express these opinions. It’s a way for us to form a resistance to what these extremist groups are putting out,” Ventura said. “We can create a culture that resists these terrible sentiments.”