UPDATE 11/25: The Black Student Union at UCF released the following statement:
"The University of Central Florida Black Student Union was founded on the basis of unity, education and family. We strive to support all organizations that choose to walk in their truth — as long as it doesn’t mitigate, trivialize or act as a silencer for a minority group. We are committed to fostering an environment filled with mutual respect and improving cultural sensitivity at UCF. We believe in affirming the worth of all people and that every person at UCF deserves to be heard, valued and respected on the basis of their character. We are saddened that our message of love and support are being taken out of context. However, we are emboldened by students of all races and ethnicities who have voiced their support and appreciation for our organization. Thank you."
A controversial Facebook page for a “UCF White Student Union” popped up Saturday and has quickly been gaining traction and mixed student and community reactions since.
The page’s pinned post states that it welcomes “students of European descendants (and allies) to follow and contribute to the White Student Union.”
It goes on to say that “European-American students on college campuses face unique and immediate challenges that are ignored or even actively denied in today's cultural climate” and the movement aims to provide a safe space to air concerns.
“We seek to honor our past while promoting a positive, peaceful vision of the future; one in which every ethnic group has the right to organize and represent themselves and their interests,” the page states.
Some recent posts from the page include “How did you celebrate whiteness today?” and “It's a shame that we, the WSU, are afraid to walk down the halls of our own school! We want to be safe like everyone else!”
The UCF WSU page comes just days after USA Today reported that an anonymous Facebook page labeled “Illini White Student Union” was created, following a rally held by black students Wednesday at the University of Illinois.
The Illini WSU page reportedly dubbed the Black Lives Matter movement an act of “terrorism” and called for the monitoring of black students at the Urbana-Champaign campus. Although the original page has since been taken down, another soon appeared in its place — this time without the post including the word “terrorism,” according to USA Today.
The College Fix reported that more than 30 "White Student Union" pages have been created since, including universities such as Penn State, UCLA, New York University and Stanford.
UCF WSU page administrators said that they were inspired by the WSU at UCLA, and the post states that they hope this initiative will move others nationwide to do the same.
“We originally heard of the backlash surrounding the Illinois union and how it inspired chapters in Berkeley and UCLA,” they said. “Reading the wave [of] hateful and threatening comments by opponents made us wonder if this reception would be universal. So far the critics have been making the fallacy of composition by saying we're a hate group because some other white organizations were in the past.
“We want to organize and spread our message that being white is nothing to be ashamed of nor is it any reason to feel superior to anyone.”
Reactions to the page and its posts have been mixed. Some comments are from people inquiring about how to sign up and get involved; others accuse the page of being a “hate page.” However, the admins said the page isn’t meant solely to stirring up conversation, but eventually they hope to get involved on campus as well.
"Just admit that this is a hate page. Only good thing about this is that you can see who the bigots are on campus," Facebook user Ashley Gapczynski commented on one of the page's posts.
However, user Austin Green commented with a statement that "white people are oppressed."
"We are unable to say anything about the world we live in because people automatically say we are racist," Green stated. "A place for people to express their feelings or worries without being called racist is needed today for all people."
Regarding differences between reactions to the WSU and the Black Student Union, the admins said that, according to critics, the BSU is legitimate because it is “a response to oppression and that oppressed people need to show solidarity with one another.”
“In the current zeitgeist whites cannot talk about themselves collectively unless it is self-deprecating. Another claim is that white people aren't a real group,” they said. “The attacks are either reductionist, like saying Germans and Italians are a people but whites aren't, or whiteness was an idea created to oppress non-whites.”
UCF spokesman Chad Binette said that the university was made aware of the page yesterday and the page is not affiliated with the university. Binette also said they reported the "unauthorized use of UCF trademarks" to Facebook yesterday.
Eventually, though, the admins said they would like to see WSU chapters gain recognition throughout the country.
“Shutting them down would just build our case for founding them in the first place,” they said. “Either way, this issue isn't going away anytime soon.”
However, The Daily Beast reported that all such White Student Union pages are actually the brainchildren of "racist trolls," claiming that white supremacy sites and 4chan and 8chan trolls targeted at least 25 schools this weekend with the WSU pages in order to stir up racial tensions.
This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates.
Danielle Hendrix is a News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @ByDaniHendrix or email her at DanielleH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.