Update – Nov. 23, 1:34 p.m.
Some are reporting that the chain of groups at universities across the country could be all part of an elaborate hoax, although it’s unclear where the idea for the pages started. One post on Medium suggests white supremacists on social media as the culprits, while NYU Local reports that the pages could have been born from online message boards 4chan and 8chan.
However, the pages have still seen sparse statements of support in the comment sections of posts.
University spokesperson Matt Nagel said no White Student Union organization exists at NYU, and the school is working towards halting usage of the school’s logo on the page.
“We call on all parties to contribute thoughtfully and respectfully to the discourse on race and to reject efforts to derail or distort the conversation,” Nagel said.
The page’s profile picture is now of Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes, and the group’s name has changed from “NYU White Student Union” to “Union of White NYU Students.”
Increased discussion of diversity at NYU has seen various reactions in recent days, but a new development has sparked controversy and anger among the student body — the appearance of an NYU White Student Union page on Facebook.
The page, which seems to have been created late Friday night and has 214 likes as of publication, defines itself as a safe space for NYU students of European descent and already has several posts.
“European-American students on college campuses face unique and immediate challenges that are ignored or even actively denied in today’s cultural climate,” the page’s description reads.
One post, which grabbed the attention of many commenters, questioned whether the term “diversity” in itself might be racist toward white people. Another said the group has received multiple threatening messages since the page’s creation.
The creator of the page, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to safety concerns, said it’s hard to differentiate between the serious threats and those who are simply trolling. The creator acknowledged that exposure would jeopardize future employment opportunities, but emphasized the need for a space to facilitate discussion.
“For now we need to have a safe private online space to begin this conversation,” they said.
Despite the majority of students denouncing the page, the group has attracted a few who defend it. CAS sophomore Shreesham Mukherjee said he thinks backlash against the group is unjustified and the group has a right to exist so long as it doesn’t infringe upon the rights of others.
“I believe the whole notion of a safe space, which is what this argument seems to be spawning from, is hypocritical,” Mukherjee said. “To me it seems fairly obvious that each and every person has the same right, and if students of a particular ethnicity can form a group, they need to understand that students of other ethnicities can as well.”
It’s not the first page of its kind to pop up — White Student Union groups have materialized at universities across the country like UC Berkeley, University of Illinois and University of Missouri. Illinois’ already has more than 2,000 likes, while Berkeley’s has more than 700.
Tisch freshman Rae Jordan said she thinks the group stems from white people feeling like they need a sense of community akin to the ones that people of color have, such as the Black Students Union.
“They try to paint a picture of these stereotypically evil minorities, but refuse to speak once these stereotypes are broken,” Jordan said. “I believe that the NYU White Student Union formed as a result of white students feeling taken from the spotlight after people of color have started rising up.”
She added that she feels the group needs to be taken seriously, rather than simply being dismissed as satire.
CAS junior Budd Brown said he initially thought the page was a joke, but now thinks it intends to do harm after looking through it more. However, he says he can’t tell if it’s unfortunate or purposeful that the page came about after a week of diversity talks on campus.
“The page lets us know that there’s work that needs to be done at NYU in terms of understanding of diversity and inclusion,” Brown said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article mistakenly identified Budd Brown as Budd Johnson.
A version of this article appeared in the Nov. 23 print edition. Email Alex Bazeley at [email protected]