A Jewish student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) has decried the presence of a self-professed white nationalist on campus as “a clear and undeniable threat to minorities like myself.”
Zach Markon, a sophomore and assistant sports editor at UNL’s student newspaper, wrote on Monday that he feels unsafe at his university due to the continued enrollment of Daniel Kleve, a peer who has described himself as “the most active white nationalist in the Nebraska area.”
Kleve first came to public attention last Monday, after the group Anti-Fascist Action Nebraska posted a recording of a video conference during which he asserted that his “presentable” appearance “doesn’t mean that I don’t love violence. You don’t have to look like a violent person to be violent.”
Kleve — who has argued that his remarks were misconstrued — has also called eugenics “reasonable,” and allegedly participated in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer. While he has been photographed shaking hands with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, as well as holding the flag of Vanguard America — which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calls a “white supremacist group” — Kleve has denied being a member of “any organization,” claiming instead to be part of “the larger alt-right.”
Some 200 people gathered at UNL to protest Kleve’s views on Wednesday, with some demanding his expulsion and accusing the university of inaction, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green responded to the controversy the following day, acknowledging that multiple calls were made for Kleve’s removal, “based on concern for safety and outright disgust and rejection of the ideologies represented.”
While personally rejecting the student’s “hateful and intolerant” views, Green emphasized that they are “protected by the First Amendment.”
“That is the law, even if we disagree,” the chancellor said.
In a bid to address student concerns, administrators organized two “listening conversations” last week, which were attended by top campus officials including Donde Plowman, UNL’s executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer.
“We have a world renowned team of threat assessment experts as well as our own law enforcement … who have been monitoring actively this situation for quite sometime now,” Plowman told students during the second session, according to the Daily Nebraskan. “We rely on their expertise … to indicate if they feel like there is a substantial immediate threat. So far, they don’t feel that that is the case.”
Green took the opportunity to again denounce Kleve’s comments, but emphasized that they were constitutionally protected and do not warrant punitive action.
While Markon said he understood the university’s defense of Kleve’s free speech rights, he contended that the student’s “presence and statements” violate UNL’s code of conduct — a charge UNL rejects.
“Section 5 prohibits ‘physical abuse, verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, coercion, and/or other conduct that threatens or unreasonably endangers the mental or physical health, safety or reputation of any person,’” he wrote. “I can say without hesitation, Kleve has endangered both the physical and mental health of hundreds of minority students at UNL.”
Markon recalled visiting Israel during its 2014 war with the Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas, and leaving unharmed — despite “the constant threat of rocket fire” — due to the ubiquity of air raid sirens and bomb shelters.
“Israel’s government recognized a threat, and it took active measures to ensure the protection of its citizens,” he observed. “The same can not be said for the administration at UNL.”
Markon said he “felt a sense of fear and dread” after seeing Kleve walking on campus last week, “greater than the fear I felt while in an active war zone.”
“Administrators have claimed there are safety nets in place to protect students, but as I looked around, there were no officers or safety personnel in sight,” he recounted. “As a Jew, I felt more fear in the Nebraska Union than I felt while hiding in a bomb shelter in Israel. That should speak volumes about the effect Kleve has had on my mental health.”
“University of Nebraska administrators have shown they value Kleve’s right to hate speech more than they value my right to safety,” Markon continued, “and that’s unacceptable.”
The ADL announced earlier this month that white supremacists targeted US university students with propaganda 147 times during the 2017 fall semester — more than triple the amount recorded over the same period in 2016.
The materials may feature calls to “save the white race,” and often demonize minorities including Jews, Blacks, Muslims, immigrants, and the LGBT community.
Since September 2016, the ADL documented over 340 incidents of white supremacist propagandist activity on 216 college and university campuses.
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