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UPDATE: White Student Union removes University trademarks from website

UPDATE: The Auburn White Student Union has removed mentions of "War Eagle" from its website and has also removed its previous logo that included the University-trademarked slogan. They have also added a disclaimer noting that they are not affiliated with the University.

An alt-right group claiming to be a "White Student Union" affiliated with Auburn University as a student organization has been making its rounds on campus, distributing antisemitic fliers and asking students to visit its new website.

The group, which previously claimed to be the Whites of the Alt-Right Educating Auburn Gentiles for Liberation and Empowerment, or WAR EAGLE, began distributing fliers last week across campus. They have since removed the WAR EAGLE acronym from their website and have added a disclaimer noting that they are not affiliated with the University.

Their new website does not provide a way for students to sign up for the group, it only charges those who support its message to distribute pamphlets on campus. The group says they are alt-right, an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism.

The University responded to news of the new "organization" last night in a statement.

"This group isn't an Auburn student organization, and we find the views expressed in their materials reprehensible and unrepresentative of those of the university," the University said in a statement from the Office of Communications and Marketing.

The group's new website doesn't provide contact information or meeting times.

Mike Clardy, assistant vice president of University communications, said that the University was looking into possible copyright and trademark violations associated with the group. Their website displays trademarked Auburn logos and slogans.

Auburn is not the first campus to experience what the Anti-Defamation League refers to as "fliering incidents." There have been more than 100 incidents of white supremacists fliering on American college campuses this school year. Sixty-five percent of the incidents have occurred since January.

Bobby Woodard, vice president for student affairs and associate provost, said at an AUTogether forum Tuesday night that other campuses have recently experienced the same type of fliering incident, including the University of Georgia. Administrators, who were made aware of the organization on Friday, aren't sure where the organization is based out of.

"As of now, we do know that the website is based out of Florida," Woodard said Tuesday. "It says New York on the website, but it’s based and was created in Florida at one of those think-tank type of places.

"We do know that the same type of flyers went up today at the University of Georgia and my understanding is that there have possibly been sightings of them at the University of Alabama as well."

The white supremacist fliers and posters have been reported in more than 25 states, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center is monitoring the group in Auburn and has placed other white nationalist groups on their Hate Watch List. SPLC Outreach Director Lecia Brooks said the SPLC doesn't have enough information on the Auburn group to place it on the list yet.

"We've been watching White Student Unions since 2012," Brooks said. "We haven't identified them as a real group yet. I don't want to give them this impression that they've got this huge profile based on this one incident of fliering."

The group reportedly has three levels of membership, trial membership, which is extended to those of "white ancestry and good character." Full membership is extended to those who are "dedicated to [their] cause." According to their website, non-white individuals will not be considered for membership.

A third membership, auxiliary membership, is extended to "allies," or non-white people.

"The content found on the site includes discriminatory membership criteria for those not white, calling out every diversity organization and office affiliated with Auburn, and scientifically inaccurate reading materials which are quite simply racist," said Dylan Clark, the president of Auburn's Spectrum. "This has been deeply upsetting to multiple friends, many of whom belong to a minority, and are worried the continuation or allowance of such student activities may jeopardize their safety."

White Student Unions date back to 2010 when Matthew Heimbach, a student who founded a chapter of Youth for Western Civilization at Towson University in Maryland. He then started a White Student Union there, which sparked a whole movement to create these types of groups, especially online groups.

But this year has marked a large increase, Brooks said.

"There was a huge increase right after the election," Brooks said. "It really started during the campaigns when white nationalists offered him their support in the person of Steve Bannon, primarily."

The WSU website has no contact information and offers no means for someone to sign up for membership. Brooks said that might be because they just want to give attention to their ideology through the fliering.

"Anybody could just post a WordPress blog space," Brooks said. "It could be simply based on what they've seen in other news reports on college campuses. They may want to do something similar, just get some attention to get things going."

The University has made it clear the organization does not have any sanctioned status. SGA President Jacqueline Keck said this is an opportunity to present a united front.

"My hope is that students would see this as an opportunity to move forward in unity and speak to the importance of respect and inclusion," Keck said.

Gabby Dance, community writer, contributed to this report.

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