A flier advocating far-right ideas was first spotted on campus at the end of August, and copies were still being found as recently as last week. “IU WOKE ENOUGH?” stretches across the top of the flier in bold letters. It’s a question that has an easy answer — no.
Bloomington might be commonly portrayed as the quintessential liberal college town, but the claim that it’s too far left is laughable. There is a long history of far-right campaigns targeting the university, and the transition to an online environment is only helping them.
In Aug. 2019, fliers recruiting for the Ku Klux Klan were scattered across Bloomington. These types of fliers are definitely not woke, and they’re a recurring problem for the city.
The newest flier alleged the university doesn’t allow anyone to disagree about issues such as implicit bias, white privilege and “the Marxist Origins of Black Lives Matter.” The academic atmosphere on campus is compared to a struggle session, which was a tactic used by the Communist Party of China during the Cultural Revolution. They would verbally and physically abuse political opponents in public until they pled guilty to various crimes.
Basically, it’s not socially acceptable to be racist anymore, and some people are upset about that. It’s hard to see how this infringes on academic freedom, though. Professor Eric Rasmusen made bigoted posts on social media as early as 2003 and still received a triple-digit salary from IU.
Rasmusen has been under investigation since last fall and is on unpaid academic leave this year. IU spokesperson Chuck Carney could not tell the Indiana Daily Student the reason for the leave besides citing a personnel issue. Rasmusen said he applied for the voluntary leave in August before his latest controversial tweets were widely circulated.
Regardless, the flier encourages people to share evidence of anti-conservative bias on social media, and there is even an email address to send stories to if the person would like to remain anonymous.
Under the hashtag #IUWoke, one Twitter user shared clips from IU classes and diversity training panels. The clips were from longer videos posted on a YouTube channel titled Struggle Session, many of which include the participants’ full names in the comments.
The videos were all pretty standard discussions about race and religion. If this is what qualifies as “ultra-woke,” that’s terrifying.
It’s not a coincidence that many of the faculty members who were recorded are people of color. Recording them and posting their names online makes them targets for harassment, and it could have serious consequences.
IU had issues with recordings being leaked to conservative websites before the transition online. In February, a student recorded and shared a video of a BDSM demonstration that was a part of SexFest, despite being asked not to record to protect the privacy of students and volunteers at the event. This led to the final night being canceled due to fear of a disruption.
Provost Lauren Robel issued a statement that can no longer be found in the archive on her website, but the IDS previously quoted her calling the demonstration, one being used to teach about consent, “inappropriate, disturbing and offensive.”
With so many classes and events happening over Zoom, it’s easier for people to be recorded without their knowledge or consent. In a tweet in March, Turning Point USA, a conservative student organization, president Charlie Kirk encouraged students in online classes to record their professors. This is a problem that is only going to get worse.
The protection and anonymity that a computer screen provides emboldens bigots and gives them easier access to minority communities, whether it’s through social media or Zoom.
Far-right campaigns pose a real threat to campus safety and academic freedom. These campaigns replicate the very circumstances that they claim to be fighting against, except they target marginalized groups.
By attempting to expose professors, they attack the academic freedom of their ideological opponents. The debate was never really about academic freedom. It’s about the freedom to express bigotry.
Like the saying goes, when you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.
The reality is hateful people also call IU home. It’s up to us to watch out for each other and report bias incidents to make IU a safe place.
Allyson McBride (she/her) is a junior studying English and political science. She is the press secretary for the College Democrats at IU and copy editor for An Inkslinger's Observance.