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Concern 'European' campus club is cover for white supremacist group

The Wireless logo The Wireless 1/03/2017 Katie Parker, Mandy Te

<span style="color:#333333;font-size:13px;background-color:#ebebe4;">A University of Auckland student group is being accused of promoting white supremacy.</span> © Getty Images A University of Auckland student group is being accused of promoting white supremacy. 'We are for people who have an interest in European culture,' spokesperson claims.

A University of Auckland student group is being accused of promoting white supremacy - but the university says that with no evidence of these intentions they are unable to intervene.

With orientation festivities set to kick off as semester begins next week, students, staff and members of the public have expressed grave concerns over the university’s decision to allow a group calling themselves the European Students Association to hold a stall to promote their group.

The club’s facebook page - which features Celtic and Germanic iconography and 19th century painting The Proclamation of the German Empire - offers little explanation of the group’s intentions, however some are interpreting the imagery as reminiscent of that used by far-right and white power groups.

© Provided by Radio New Zealand Limited A header image shows James Cook superimposed over a New Zealand flag along with the phrase “strength through honour”.  

Founded in early January, the group has recently come to the attention of the community at large who have taken to social media to express their concerns.


 
 

Madison*, a 21-year-old University of Auckland student who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, said that she is familiar with the founders of the group and considers them to be “really unsafe people”.

“They have no regard for human rights. They see millions of people as sub-humans. One of them talked about how Islam is a cancer. They use violent rhetoric.”

She said that they are a direct threat to safety on campus.

“Especially for people of colour on campus, LGBT people on campus, Jewish people on campus - that does not make you feel safe when those views are allowed to recruit.”

Auckland University Students Association president Will Matthews said he had met with the university clubs management and the university proctor on Wednesday to discuss complaints made by “a number of students” over the nature of the club.

“Concerns have been raised about the intentions and purposes of the club on campus and the message they are promoting” he said.

In spite of this, the university have allowed the group to have a stall for one day at the clubs expo next week, though the club is not formally affiliated with the university.

Matthews said it was standard practice for new clubs that had formed over the summer to be allowed to hold a stall at O-Week before the affiliation process, as the AUSA was not operating then.

The European Students Association will be up for affiliation midway through week two of the semester, a process which is decided by a vote of AUSA members.

“Then the student body will be able to have a say over whether or not they want that group to be formally recognised”, Matthews said.

“I think the students at the University of Auckland want to ensure that they balance the right to free speech with the safety of students on campus, as well as standing up for basic human rights.”

In spite of concerns over safety a University of Auckland spokesperson said that it is not unusual for unaffiliated clubs to hold stalls at orientation week.

“While the university promotes a safe and inclusive campus environment, they have no evidence there is any form of discrimination or racism.”

A spokesperson for the club, who declined to identify themselves, said via Facebook Messenger, that the controversy was a "misunderstanding" and that they are “open to and inclusive of all people”.

“We are for people who have an interest in European culture, but also to represent Europeans in the sense that AUPISA represents Pacific Islanders.”

Club get togethers, the spokesperson said, might involve “hiking or perhaps snorkelling, just general activities.” 

“We will try give it a European cultural theme to it.”

Madison, however, considers explanations such as this to be disingenuous.

“I think it’s a pre-tense. If it were about European activities, then they wouldn’t have chosen all the iconography and pictures.”

“I’m uncomfortable with it and it’s clearly a political group.”

With concern growing internationally over racist and Islamophobic rhetoric, Madison feels that groups such as this are part of a larger problem.

“I think the reason why it's come up right now is because of the political climate. The rise of right wing, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

“These groups feel way more comfortable being out in the open, recruiting, pushing their violent agendas”.

With outrage growing at university’s lack of intervention, she said that she and her fellow students would be willing take action to get their message across.

“We’re going to make sure that our voices are heard on this."

"We think it’s extremely important to not allow fascists to openly organise on campus.”

*Name has been changed.

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