Far right making gains of campuses

“Illegal people aren’t a race; they’re people who don’t belong in your country,” disgraced alt-right spokesperson Milo Yiannopoulos declared to cheering students at the University of New Mexico on 27 January.

The rise of the far right has been reflected in student political life everywhere, not just in the US. From the ABVP (youth wing of the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP) sweeping student elections across India, to the Austrian Freedom Party student groups gaining a foothold among students, the far right is seeking to build a base campuses around the world.

Australian universities are not immune. On 8 April last year, students at Melbourne University arrived on campus to find phrases such as “Go home Muslims” and “Islam is not a race” chalked on every available surface.

Fringe groups have been gaining visibility using posters, graffiti and stickers – at Sydney University with outright Nazi-esque slogans such as “Culture stems from race”. Alt-right mascot Pepe the Frog makes frequent appearance on campuses across the country. And the red “Make America Great Again” cap is worn openly by some students (mostly those also sporting Ralph Lauren polo shirts and boat shoes), and not in an ironic fashion.

It is notable that these symbols of hate have mostly emerged on the sandstone campuses, the traditional province of rich students. No wonder, since they have the most to gain by promoting such views.

The goal of the far right is to use the campus environment to build their organisations and promote hate speech.

It will be up to the left on campuses to fight and not let the far right win.