On the heels of a daylong campuswide discussion on racism, University of St. Thomas officials removed a flier Thursday saying, “It’s OK to be white.”
The single poster, found taped to a city-owned electrical box on the southeast corner of Cretin and Summit Avenues, was similar to those found Wednesday night at Tufts University in Massachusetts and those posted on college campuses across the country last Halloween.
Leaders of the Catholic university’s St. Paul campus swiftly denounced the message as an organized campaign to incite racial and political division among its students. The phrase “It’s OK to be white” has been associated with alt-right groups seeking to incite arguments about alleged discrimination against white Americans.
“St. Thomas condemns the efforts of fringe groups and individuals that seek to divide our communities,” officials announced in a news release. “We also condemn the use of technology and computational propaganda to sow division in our communities. We stand up to hate and to those who seek to divide us.”
The incident remains under investigation and authorities have not identified a suspect. Anyone with information about these posters is asked to contact the school’s public safety department by e-mailing PSTIPS@stthomas.edu or calling 651-962-TIPS.
Last year, when similar signs appeared overnight at St. Thomas, the community responded by posting a variety of positive messages like “It’s OK to be human.” At the time, the university chose not to make a public statement about the incident because officials thought it “would have furthered goals of hate and division through media attention.”
In recent weeks, St. Thomas has been dogged by reports of racism on its campus — including a black student’s report of finding a racial slur scrawled on his dorm-room door.
The university canceled classes Wednesday afternoon for an unprecedented meeting on racism that drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 5,000 students, staff and faculty members.
It came about a week after hundreds of St. Thomas students and faculty members staged a sit-in to show solidarity with students of color, and St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan released a lengthy “Action Plan to Combat Racism.”
That plan includes launching a campuswide, anti-bias training program and doing more to recruit and retain faculty members of color.