A student group at Gustavus Adolphus College says it's sorry if a social experiment – in which inflammatory posters about squealing on "illegal aliens" were put up – impacted anyone negatively.
The signs: said: "A notice to all white Americans. It is your civic duty to report any and all illegal aliens to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They are criminals. America is a white nation." Twitter user Hudson LaRoe Pearson snagged a photo.
Campus police said they got a report of "bias-related" posters at 10:37 a.m. Monday on the outside doors of two academic halls. By the time public safety got there, the signs had been taken down.
Photos were apparently posted on the Facebook group Overheard at Gustavus, and some people were incredibly bothered by the signs, which included no marks identifying why there were up.
"Someone had the nerve, the audacity, to post this up on a door at Gustavus smh," one Twitter user wrote.
A group takes responsibility
So what were they for?
It was an educational experience, meant to teach people about how to respond to bias, according to the student-run group that put the signs up.
That group – the Diversity Leadership Council – wrote a letter to the Gustavus community afterward, explaining that in addition to posting these signs, they put up A-frames in nearby academic buildings with tips on bystander intervention.
Bystander intervention is basically how to actively respond if you see someone harassed or targeted for things like their race, religion or gender. The Harvard Civil Liberties website has a list of tips here. It includes calling out the bigoted behavior, standing by the victims, and documenting the incident as best as possible.
The Gustavus Diversity Leadership Council said it hoped the signs would "forc[e] individuals to have dialogues about forms of hate and bias," and help end bias-related incidents on campus and social media.
"We hope that members of the campus community will reflect on today’s events and join us in ensuring that no one student or group of students are ever a victim of this form of discrimination," the group wrote, later adding: "We understand that the language in these images may be hurtful – we apologize to those who were negatively impacted."
Gustavus has a Bias Response Team (more info here) dedicated to addressing ate crimes and bias incidents.
The council put up the posters in conjunction with the social justice theatre troupe I Am We Are, which will have a related spoken word performance Thursday.
Some people weren't happy
The response from some people was anger, brought on by confusion.
"Sometimes I walk around crowded theaters yelling, 'fire!' I do it because I want to create awareness, thus no punishment is warranted," wrote on Facebook commenter in response to the council's letter.
Some other students spoke to Southern Minnesota News, with one saying the posters "made my fears come to life and had me believing that if someone could be that vocal about their feelings about immigrants…who knows what else they would do.”