On October 28, 2017, the National Socialist Movement, the League of the South, Vanguard America, and the Traditionalist Worker Party, planned two events entitled “White Lives Matter” in Middle Tennessee, near the campus of Middle Tennessee State University. These groups all participated in the Charlottesville, Virginia “Unite the Right” rally earlier this year, and because of the violence and racist ideology expressed at that event, members of the campus community were justifiably concerned. These planned protests unquestionably impacted MTSU, and this article explores several aspects of the impact these protests had on campus.
Of course, white supremacist action on or near university campuses is not new. Richard Spencer is currently on what he describes as a college tour, with stops at the University of Virginia and the University of Florida, leaving tumult and lawsuits in his wake. The University of Florida spent upwards of $500,000 on security upgrades on campus and in the surrounding areas in preparation for the rally there, and the Florida government declared a state of emergency ahead of the speech. In addition, various white supremacist organizations are recruiting on college campuses. Taken together, these actions leave college campuses in the unfortunate position of determining how to allow for the free expressions of ideologies that conflict with the values of many members of the campus community, while maintaining the safety of all students. It is no surprise that the message that these groups tout is taken by many students as an affront to their very identity.