Joey Nowak, State News (Michigan State University), March 15, 2007
A list of national hate groups produced by an internationally known civil rights organization now includes the name of MSU’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, the first university-affiliated group to be placed on the list.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual Hate Group list, which names more than 800 groups in the country and 25 in Michigan, is predominantly symbolic and does not imply any consequences or penalties.
The list is released to approximately 50,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide that uses the list as a tool for monitoring hate groups, said Heidi Beirich, deputy director of the Intelligence Project, which monitors hate and extremist activity through the law center.
Beirich said three of the main reasons MSU’s YAF was placed on the list were its constant use of slur words the proposal that the governance for MSU to be white supremacist and its “constant immigrant bashing.”
The MSU College Republicans and YAF were in the spotlight for bringing Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo to MSU to speak about immigration last semester. The Tancredo event was protested, and students reported assaults and the vandalization of vehicles.
YAF also has been in the news for attempting to sponsor “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day” on campus. After much controversy and debate, the event was canceled.
YAF Chairman Kyle Bristow said the organization “might file a lawsuit for character defamation.” He called the SPLC “disgusting” and extremely “left-wing” and said it was simply trying to discourage conservative activism.
Other Michigan groups on the list include the National Socialist Movement in Grand Rapids and the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Kalamazoo.
Beirich stressed that it was MSU’s chapter of the organization being added to the list, not the nationwide group. A group does not have to be violent to be considered hateful, she said.
Terry Denbow, MSU’s spokesman, said the views of an external organization do not affect the action MSU takes pertaining to its anti-discrimination policy.
“I know of no violation of the criteria at this time. Once you start allowing external groups to establish criteria, that begins a slippery slope within the free marketplace of ideas.”
MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said the university is trying to get more information about why the group was placed on the list.
Both Bristow and Allen said YAF’s future plans will not be hindered by the SPLC attention and YAF is not concerned.