Members of an organization labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “white nationalist hate group” were on Murray State’s campus this week recruiting members.
MSU officials say the so-called Traditionalist Workers Party is not affiliated with the university, but paid for and reserved a table in the Curris Center, a public space.
MSU officials made this statement Friday:
"As a public institution, Murray State University supports open and respectful discussions on an array of topics. Earlier this week a non-University group paid for, and reserved a table, in the Curris Center on the Murray campus. Registering for a space on campus does not imply endorsement of a group or their message. Murray State University is committed to ensuring an inclusive and safe learning environment where our campus community can engage in thoughtful discussions based on the merits of one’s intellectual pursuits, not based on stereotypes or discrimination."
Drew, a MSU student who wishes not to provide his last name, says he noticed TWP propaganda the first week of school.
“The flyers that concern me is just the language of 'taking back a community,' this can mean many things and this context can be interpreted as more traditional white centrist view of the world in a sense," said Drew.
He says he is disturbed by the group's posters and now their physical presence on campus.
"That is deeply concerning as a university student who, deeply values multiculturalism and understanding about the love for another human beings. This is very concerning for a group that is deeply entrenched in hatred," he said.
Travis Hoskins is a 2nd year psychology student and was the only recruiter at the table enrolled at Murray State. Hoskins says he joined the TWP in March and was attracted by the party's anti-globalism stance.
“I don't want to see the face of our country change, whether that just be from a middle class traditional country that is, I guess, a Christian country to become something else," said Hoskins. "I would like to see it stay the way that it is, the way that Canada, Great Britain, France, all these countries have traditionally been. I don't want to see massive immigration take those countries and change them."
While Hoskins says he doesn't have much hope that the two main political parties can help with these issues, but he does back Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and recognizes David Duke.
"Dr. Duke is by far not a supremacist of any type, he doesn't think he is better than anyone," Hoskins said.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Duke, a former US Representative from Louisiana and Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, is the "most recognizable figure of the American radical right."
But Hoskins says TWP members are not white supremacists.
“There's a lot of people trying to use derogatory labels trying to categorize people with our political opinions," he said. "The very word 'white supremacist,' I mean, is indicating that we think we are somewhat better and above and someone and we want to push someone else out and that's not the case. We simply don't want to be pushed out."
Ryan Lenz with the SPLC says there is a subtle rhetorical difference between white nationalism and white supremacy.
"White nationalism is fundamentally the idea that, the United States of America is a White homeland, a White Christian homeland that is being ruined ultimately by the forces of cultural ism and diversity and tolerance for that matter," said Lenz. "White Supremacy argues that whites are more supreme than anyone else."
But Lenz says the Traditionalist Workers Party is "a white nationalist hate group."
"It was started by a man named Matthew Heimbach, who is a young white nationalist who has been active on the radical right since he was a student in Maryland," said Lenz. "The TWP is essentially the political arm of another group called TYN, the Traditionalist Youth Network, which is an organization that advocates for, among many things, a white nationalist ethno-state and, without a doubt, this is a racist organization."
Lenz says the TWP has chapters on a few dozen campus across the U.S., and its seeing a slow but steady growth.
"This has been made incredibly easy in the last year or so, you know, with the Republican Party led by Donald Trump who has adopted and endorsed and embraced any number of far-right-wing ideas," said Lenz.
Lenz says TWP is not deep into the mainstream, but their notoriety grew recently after a violent skirmish with anti-fascist protesters in Sacramento.
"Everyone knows about this group now, it remains to be seen how quickly it will grow," Lenz said.
Murray State says it received no complaints to the office of public safety while the group was on campus.