WRITTEN BY MICHELLE MERLIN
THE MORNING CALL
Kutztown University students and community members know hateful posters like the white nationalist ones that popped up on campus last week can be more than just pieces of paper.
They can be turned into origami, made into a paper mache bowl or used as kindling in a fire.
Those were just some of the ideas generated at an event hosted Friday by Kutztown University’s communication design department. The event, a workshop called “Hate the Hate,” was intended to allow students to create anti-intolerance posters. They also made buttons, paper cranes and seed bombs by grinding up paper with hateful sayings and mixing it with flower seeds.
The idea started after professor Vicki Meloney heard about the white nationalist posters, which were part of a nationwide effort by a group called Identity Evropa.
“I was just tired, exasperated from hearing the bad news, one day after another of bad political news,” she said. “I started playing with the idea of, ‘Don’t get mad, get creative.’ I saw this as a teachable moment for students.”
She sent an email offering extra credit to students who could find the posters and make something beautiful out of them. Her email made its way to social media and got thousands of reactions, so she wanted to do more. The few posters on campus were long gone, so she opted for the event Friday where people could create their own posters. She plans to put them online so they can be used at campuses across the country.
Meloney only saw the white nationalist posters online, photographs of Greek statues with slogans such as “protect your heritage” and “serve your people,” and said their message was subtle. Identity Evropa, which identifies itself as an American-based group “dedicated to promoting the interests of People of European Heritage,” on the group’s Facebook page, placed the posters at campuses across the country.
Yuwen Sun, a Kutztown student from China, said she was initially shocked and a little nervous when she heard about the posters on campus. But her fears disappeared as soon as she saw her friends and teachers.
“I feel like I’m supported and comfortable and safe here,” she said while she created a poster with a panda and a heart at the workshop.
Colt Barron, a Kutztown sophomore from Emmaus, created a poster titled “101 things to do with hate posters,” with blank space at the end for students to tack on their ideas. Barron said he felt horrible when he heard about the posters and that they didn’t square with his experiences at the school.
“It felt like a child was lashing out,” he said. “As a student body and college community, none of us adhere to that antiquated way of thinking.”
Alexis Manduke, a senior from Harrisburg, came to the event because she couldn’t stand the white nationalist posters, especially at the university.
“It made me feel annoyed and angry,” she said. “Everyone should be equal and accepted.”
Meloney urged people on other college campuses with white nationalist posters to re-create Kutztown’s project.
“They’re designed to create anger,” Meloney said. “My message is if you see these posters on campus to not react in an angry way but to take them down and turn them into a positive message.”