It was around 9 p.m. Sunday night, on Oct. 20, when assistant professor Robert “Buz” Buskirk came into the Wallace Building on Eastern Kentucky University and noticed something amiss. Three 8.5 by 11 prints of white supremacy literature were posted on the tack strips at each of the four entrances in Wallace. He found more on the bulletin boards lining the hallways.
Buskirk, an assistant professor in the math and statistics department at EKU and serving on staff for the past 17 years, had come in to do some copying before his 8 a.m. class the next morning. Once finding the posters in Wallace, he proceeded to take them down.
Buskirk estimated that he removed over a dozen posters throughout the first floor of Wallace and proceeded to check other floors for additional material. He found none.
The next morning, however, when he came into to teach, Buskirk saw one poster on the tack strip on one of the entrances. He removed it as well.
The posters belong to the white supremacist group known as the American Identity Movement. According to the Anti-Defamation League, a global anti-hate organization, the American Identity Movement was founded by Patrick Casey after the disbandment of Casey’s former group, the Identity Evropa. Identity Evropa helped in the coordinating of the deadly riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
Gary Potter, assistant dean of the EKU school of justice studies, offered more insight on the American Identity Movement, as well as the purpose of the posters themselves.
“There’s not a big [American Identity Movement] contingent in Kentucky that I know of, but that doesn’t mean that their ideas don’t get imported,” he said.
“They like [to] argue that they’re intellectuals… They’re very common on university campuses,” said Potter.
After analyzing several of the posters, Potter said the nature and purpose of their placement was to promote AIM organization and recruit individuals.
The posters in question were in violation of numerous EKU policies as written in the Faculty Handbook. The handbook details that only one poster may be put up by a group per posting place or bulletin board, and must not obscure other posted items. Parties seeking to post material in a university building must seek prior approval from the building supervisor.
Daniel Mundfrom, the building supervisor of Wallace, having been brought on at EKU as the chair of the mathematics and statistics department nine years ago and inherited the role of supervisor responsibilities when he was hired. The central duties as a building supervisor involve dealing with complaints such as a leaky sink in one of the restrooms, balancing the building temperature and keeping the building up to safety code.
“Periodically when I’m going up and down the stairs, I’ll look to see [posters] that have dates on them,” he said regarding his monitoring of posted literature, “So whatever they’re advertising, [if] the date is passed and I’ll take those pages down.”
He said that the American Identity Movement never reached out for approval of posting their material in Wallace. In fact, he never even saw the posters, as they had been removed before he had the chance.
“If I did find something like you’re talking about, I would take [the posters] down,” he said.
Buskirk said he filed a police report with the EKU police department. Kristi Middleton, the university’s chief external affairs officer, confirmed in an email to the Progress that an administrative report had been submitted on Oct. 21. However, as no criminal activity had occurred, no police action was taking place to follow up on the incident.
EKU is not the only university where racist incidents have taken place. In mid-November, Syracuse University experience multiple instances of racist graffiti in buildings according to NBC. Then the New York Times reported that on Nov. 18, a white supremacist manifesto, which had previously been circulated by the suspect at the center of two mass shootings in New Zealand in March of this year, had been posted on a university forum then shared involuntarily to several students’ cell phones.
“I think the term is plastered,” Buskirk said when recounting his discovery, pointing out that one such poster appeared to have been hastily thrown into the Eastern Progress newspaper bin in one of Wallace’s entrances.
“First I was mad,” Buskirk said, “I was just throwing them away. But then I thought, ‘I should be collecting these.”
The question remains of how the posters managed to be placed inside Wallace to start. According to Buskirk on Sunday evenings the building remains open for student meetings.
“I’m pretty sure that it was opportunistic,” he said. “They found a building that had a lot of traffic and at night when there wasn’t much people watching.”
For Buskirk, the incident struck a personal chord. During the second world war, his father’s platoon got pinned down in the Pacific front by Japanese forces. He recalls that of the 49 men in the company, only seven remained alive when the sun rose the next day, all wounded. As the Japanese prepared to assault the wounded soldiers, a battalion of African-American soldiers arrived and pulled the men out.
“My dad survived World War ll,” he said, “because of a bunch of African-American soldiers doing their job right. And I got to come back and go to one of the very best high schools in West Virginia and grow up in essentially the American suburban existence and all those guys came back to Jim Crow. And that’s what these [white supremacists] don’t want to acknowledge. So it’s kind of personal.”
For more information, listen to the EP Podcast, The Mix: Whistling Dixie: Responding to Racist Propaganda.