By: Audrey Nielsen
During last night’s holiday storm, a group of people in Halloween masks were caught on security cameras placing flyers across Western Connecticut State University’s Midtown campus and hanging a flag associated with the Alt-Right and white supremacist groups in the 5th Avenue parking garage. Some time during Halloween night on Westside, a vandal graffitied the n-word across the outdoor stage at Ives Concert Park.
On Midtown, the lawn and sidewalks around Higgins and Fairfield halls were strewn with plain white flyers with large black type. The flyers were distributed as part of a stunt coordinated on 4chan’s /pol board, a controversial online image board with ties to White Supremacist and violent misogynist radicals.
Some of the flyers said “It’s Okay to be White,” the tagline of a Halloween stunt coordinated by /pol annually in public spaces since 2017. Other flyers read “Islam Is Right About Women,” a spin-off from a similar stunt in September of this year. The messages are intended to incite controversy and alienation in diverse communities and universities.
Many experts consider baiting tactics like these as ways to recruit young people who feel “embattled” by the racial climate on campuses into white supremacist ideologies and organizations. These radicalization pathways are not benign; 4chan’s more radical sister site 8chan was the home to three extremist manifestos posted prior to mass shootings this year in El Paso, TX, Poway, CA, and Christchurch, New Zealand before it was shut down in August.
WCSU Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Betts said at 2pm Nov. 1 that the administration was continuing to gather information, and that he was disgusted by the incident particularly because the University works hard to foster an atmosphere of diversity and civility. He said that the response team gathered to address the issue had contacted the FBI to assist with the investigation.
WCSU’s President Dr. John Clark wrote in an email to the University community on Friday afternoon that a full-scale investigation has been started, and encouraged witnesses with information on either incident to reach out to a private tipline at 203-837-9300. “Have no doubt that we are treating this as an attack,” Dr. Clark wrote on Nov. 1. “If any member of our University community is found to be party to these revolting actions they will be subject to the severest disciplinary actions, including dismissal as well as possible civil and criminal actions.”
In April 2019, another incident of racist graffiti was written in pen in a White Hall bathroom stall that included the n-word and invoked the KKK.
In 2017, the Washington Post covered the first iteration of the “It’s Okay to be White” stunt, called IOTBW by 4chan “anons” and contributors. The stunt at WCSU is nearly identical to its 2017 iteration, though the “Islam is Right About Women” slogan is new.
The flyers scattered across the Midtown grounds were reported to the Campus Police by two sophomore students last night at 9:49 p.m.. While the responding officer noted recovering papers from across the Midtown grass in the night’s police log, the content was not described in the note and a full report of the incident was not filed. When asked if it was typical for walk-in reports from students of this kind of incident to not be recorded in a report, or for collected materials to be discarded without noting content, WCSU Police Chief Roger Connor said that he would confer with his evening sergeant and follow up.
Two official investigations have been opened into the Midtown and Westside incidents. WCSU’s Campus Police have reached out to local and state police and the FBI. According to Public Information Releases, police have identified three potential subjects from the surveillance footage of the flyer and flag placement and investigation is ongoing. The graffiti on the Ives exterior stage on Westside has been removed.
Accompanying this article are the public information releases from WCSU Campus Police on each incident and President Clark’s email to the University community. Our reporting on this issue is ongoing. To reach us securely for tips or information, please text (860) 245-1867 via Signal or email email@example.com.