INSIGHT Into Diversity Teams with ADL to Address Hate on College Campuses

ADL, formally known as the Anti-Defamation League, recently partnered with INSIGHT Into Diversity to help colleges and universities understand how to address the rise in hate crimes on America’s campuses. Elissa Buxbaum, ADL’s director of campus affairs, and INSIGHT co-publisher Holly Mendelson led a free webinar on topics such as white supremacist efforts to target and recruit students, understanding hate speech versus First Amendment rights, and creating incident response teams.

While the webinar, titled “Addressing Hate on Campus: Strategies for Responding to the Rise in Bias and Hate Incidents on College Campuses,” was organized in response to the increase in incidents of racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and overall divisiveness in higher education environments, its relevance was punctuated by the release of a new report on Tuesday. The document, compiled by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity, shows that 82 percent of administrators working in diversity or student affairs-related positions knew of a hate crime occurring on their campus within the last two years.

The numbers are not surprising given ADL’s extensive research on this disturbing trend. A live poll conducted during the webinar found that 88 percent of respondents knew of a hate-bias incident occurring at their institution within the current academic year. The majority of such incidents were related to race, though LGBTQ status, immigration status, and religion were also common factors.

Buxbaum also polled webinar participants on their greatest concerns regarding hate and bias on campus. White supremacist ideology and slurs and hate symbols each received 37 percent of the vote. Nearly a quarter of respondents said rising tension with the impending 2020 elections is their biggest worry.

The resurgence of white supremacy is closely linked to the rise in hate-bias incidents at colleges and universities, Buxbaum says. Her presentation focused on dissecting the different ways that white supremacy can escalate from unintentional bias to extremism. A growing concern is the prevalence of students participating in “alt-lite” activities, such as joining youth organizations that promote far-right ideas, according to Buxbaum.

The webinar also covered the fine line administrators must take when distinguishing hate speech versus free speech. Buxbaum led participants in an assessment of fliers promoting hateful messages towards LGBTQ persons and other marginalized groups, explaining how that speech is often protected under the First Amendment. Campus flier campaigns are a popular tactic among hate groups and are increasingly common. By the end of the fall 2018 semester, 287 colleges in 47 states reported being the target of white supremacist flier campaigns, a 77 percent increase from the previous year, according to Buxbaum.

To prepare for incidents such as these, Buxbaum encouraged administrators to have a concrete plan in place for addressing hate and bias, whether that be biased language in the classroom, controversial campus speakers, or worse. ADL’s “Hate Uncycled” resource provides a step-by-step guide for creating this type of plan: prevent, prepare, respond, heal, and educate.

The organization also provides multiple resources for understanding how and why hate and bias incidents occur and how campus communities can work together in establishing inclusive, supportive environments to prevent and combat prejudice. Buxbaum emphasized the importance of cohesiveness among campus constituents, from college law enforcement to students. Focusing on higher education’s broader goals of enlightenment and community are crucial to transforming these negative incidents into positive learning experiences, she says.

The entire webinar can be accessed for free at https://vimeo.com/321599726. For more information about ADL’s resources, visit dc.adl.org/resources-for-responding-to-hate-in-the-community.