On Sept. 9, a Campus Safety officer removed a poster from the intersection of 33rd Street and Grange Avenue that displayed propaganda from a known white supremacist group. In the following week, Campus Safety removed another poster and 12 stickers.
Taylor Perkins, financial aid and scholarships coordinator, removed two stickers from campus last week. Perkins said she felt unsettled by the event. She urges whoever placed the propaganda to rethink their message.
“Be better,” Perkins said. “Just be better humans.”
Patriot Front was created in August 2017 and was one of the largest distributors of white nationalist propaganda in 2019.
According to the manifesto posted to their website, the group’s mission is to generate “a hard reset on the nation we see today — a return to the traditions and virtues of our forefathers.”
Rick Tupper, associate vice president of Campus Safety and logistics, said officers immediately take down the Patriot Front propaganda if they see it and dispose of it. He said Campus Safety also notifies the Sioux Falls Police Department.
“What we’ve encouraged people to do is let us know where [the propaganda is] at and we collect them and the police come and pick them up to track what type of message is on them,” Tupper said.
When a student first emailed Assistant Vice Provost of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Willette Capers about the stickers, she immediately emailed Tupper to formulate a plan to remove the propaganda.
“You can only sit and be with your feelings for a little bit before something has to be done,” Capers said.
Campus Safety found similar messages from the same group around the beginning of the last academic year, but they were quickly removed and did not reappear until this fall.
According to Tupper, the group’s propaganda has also recently been found in downtown Sioux Falls and on the campus of South Dakota State University, but nothing has been reported yet at the University of Sioux Falls.
At this time, Tupper said Campus Safety does not have any leads on who is responsible for placing the propaganda on campus.
“I would hope it’s not students, but I have no idea who’s doing it,” Tupper said.
Capers also does not think students are responsible for placing the propaganda.
“That can’t be my students because I just believe we’re better than that,” Capers said. “This has to be somebody that doesn’t know the inclusive environment that we breed on this campus and that needs to be educated on it.”
Tupper said it can be hard to identify who is placing the stickers and posters because Augustana is such an open campus.
“They could just be walking around campus putting them up any time and nobody really recognizes what they’re doing until you… go up and read the little decals,” Tupper said.
Tupper said students should call Campus Safety if they see anything suspicious on campus.
“If there’s people running around campus that are out of place, we’ll check to see what they’re doing,” Tupper said.
Both Tupper and Capers do not want to give a larger platform to the hate group by publicly acknowledging the issue, but they want students to be informed of the group’s presence.
“It’s this double-edged sword. I want our campus community to know that these people exist and they’re here, but I don’t want to give them attention,” Tupper said.
Capers said she wants to teach the hate group about Augustana’s core values.
“If you can’t be a part of this community of faith and love and belief in each other, then our community might not be the best one for you,” Capers said. “But we would love for you to be, and we would love to educate you on what our university stands for.”
Despite the propaganda’s negative messages, Capers said she remains hopeful about students and faculty’s desire for diversity and inclusivity on campus.
“Hate has no home in Augustana,” Capers said. “I love this place and I want to keep it amazing.”