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Hate groups hamper higher education

COLLEGE is an interesting environment to analyze. During this tumultuous transition from adolescence to adulthood, elders take a big step back and students run a great deal of life in and around the University on their own.

While students sometimes play only a small role in decision-making at the University, we are given the responsibility of deciding what behavior is and is not acceptable in the University community. More simply, if students object to the actions of an individual or group, and feel that these actions detract from the University's intellectual pursuits, they have the right to decide if an individual should be allowed to remain as part of the community.

Current controversy has arisen at Northwestern University, where white supremacist Matt Hale distributed racist literature on campus and requested that the group he leads, the World Church of the Creator, be recognized by the university as a religious organization. Just a few months earlier, a former member of the World Church of the Creator was responsible for the racially motivated murder/suicide that took the life of former Northwestern basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong. And since Hale began handing out booklets Oct. 21 throughout Northwestern's campus that touted white supremacy, 14 cars have been defaced with racist messages.

This openly hateful propaganda fueled U.S. House Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Anthony Weiner (D-NY) to ask for a formal investigation of the group, and it also motivated students to do something about the racist sentiment that had been directed at their community.

Students interested in reviving the activist group, Students for a Democratic Society, which last operated at Northwestern in 1968, have planned an anti-hate rally opposing Hale's racial views. In addition, they are working to stop the World Church of the Creator from being recognized as a religion.

Our country prides itself on the fact that every person has the right to speak freely of his beliefs. But incendiary words of hate, such as those of Hale and the World Church of the Creator, only detract from the intellectual mission of a university. People who seek to defame members of another race, class, gender etc. often hide behind the First Amendment to defend statements that are backed by little more than personal sentiment.

Students should feel safe in their school environment to learn about different beliefs. But a group that asserts its beliefs through vandalism and potential violence has no place in a community that should be an open forum for ideas. Hale's organization does not facilitate an open dialogue concerning beliefs, and would alienate portions of the student body. Students who feel alienated and in potential danger due to the presence of this group might find it difficult to focus on their work. For this reason, it is easy to see why Hale's group would not and should not be welcomed at Northwestern or any other university.

But we must not forget about the important role that the students play in shaping their community into an optimal learning environment. By organizing an anti-hate rally and working together to stop Hale and his followers, students at Northwestern have mandated that they do no want this group to be a part of their community because of the message it spreads. And the removal of Hale and his message from Northwestern will not do a disservice to its students. They have heard and seen first-hand how his organization works, and have decided for themselves that the group should be removed.

Just as students here at the University banded together to voice their opposition to the presence of now-suspended Richard Smith because of his violent actions, the students of Northwestern have demonstrated that hate and racism does not belong at their school.

Northwestern's administration must seek to create the best environment possible, and must try to accommodate all students. For this reason, the World Church of the Creator should not be given the status of a religion at Northwestern. University officials should listen to the student body and deny this group any official recognition or affiliation with the school.

Free speech is a wonderful part of living in America, but it is often abused as in the case of Hale's organization. The World Church of the Creator uses violent propaganda to further its beliefs and then seeks to spread its message using the First Amendment as justification. But a message of hate and violence has no place on a college campus because it takes away from the experience of learning and living with all kinds of people. More importantly, if the students have decided that this man and his message do not belong in their community, he should pack up his pamphlets and go home.

(Erin Perucci is a Cavalier Dailyassociate editor.)

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