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Campus hate crimes steadily increasing with spike in 2016, FBI data shows

Chart showing the number of hate incidents following the election.

Hate crimes on college campuses have been steadily increasing since 2013, according to statistics released by the FBI. 

In 2016, they spiked 38 percent. 

Dan Bauman, a data reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education, said though the timing of this increase points to a possible correlation with the 2016 election, it is impossible to say for sure without diving deeper into the individual incident reports from campuses. 

“We know there was a spike in November 2016 compared to the last five Novembers,” Bauman said.

The Anti-Defamation League confirmed there have been over 340 incidents of white supremacist propaganda being disseminated on college campuses in the past 15 months.

This number represents a tripling between the fall of 2016 and the fall of 2017. 

Doron Ezickson, the ADL's regional director for the Washington, D.C. region, said alt-right groups have declared they are targeting college campuses because it is an easy way to reach and possibly recruit a large number of impressionable young people. He said they also choose to target campuses because it elevates their media visibility. 

“They’re trying to appear stronger and more numerous than they are,” Ezickson said. “All they have to do is come in the middle of the night and hang some hateful posters, and they have declared their presence, and they disrupt life on campus.”

Lecia Brooks, outreach director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the number of hate crimes on college campuses has increased because of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and his victory in the 2016 election. 

“The far right or the extreme right was emboldened through the campaign with Trump’s nativism agenda and his dehumanizing remarks about Mexicans, immigrants and Muslims,” Brooks said. “They got the impression that he was their guy, and when he won they felt redeemed.”

There has been a steadily growing trend of online hate, Ezickson said. He said the ADL is becoming increasingly concerned with the amount of hateful speech that happens on the internet and that the 2016 election created a moment where the hate speech intensified. 

“We have said we believe that the political environment has emboldened people with these ideologies to come out from the shadows of the internet,” he said. “They are now actively coming together in rallies; they are attempting to speak on college campuses; they are not trying to hide.”

Randy Young, a spokesperson for UNC Public Safety, said in an email UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus does not have any recorded hate crimes between 2007 and 2016. He said UNC Police conducts diversity training regularly and investigates any reported threat against members of the UNC-CH community. 

“UNC Police and the University on the whole strive to create and maintain an environment where all are welcome,” he said. “Safety and security from crime and freedom from fear are our highest priority.”

Ezickson said the ADL works closely with campuses across the country to make sure they are prepared to deal with hate crimes. He said every university he has talked to understands this is the new reality for campuses, balancing student safety and commitment to free speech. 

“The challenge is for students to become informed enough about the ideologies and the people behind them,” he said. “I think students need to engage as many students on campus as possible in a declaration that different people are the strength of the campus and are the strength of our country.”

Campus administrations have a responsibility to their students, Brooks said. She said when marginalized students see groups that target them speaking openly on campus, they feel as if they are under siege. 

“It all depends on how the administration handles it from the beginning,” she said. “Some don’t take a strong enough position against these white supremacists on campus, and that’s what needs to happen right off the bat.”


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