This is a letter I wish I didn’t have to write. Rather, it’s one I feel obligated to write.
I’m writing this letter not as a journalist, but as a member of the Jewish community at UNL.
The past week at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has been an eventful one. Marred by racism, hate, bigotry and protest, this has been a week which prompted discussion and dialogue between students, faculty and the UNL administration.
And it’s because of one person: Daniel Kleve.
A self-avowed white nationalist, the UNL junior has repeatedly made statements expressing his white nationalist ideology, and his disdain for people who aren’t white, Christian men is clearly evident.
Kleve has established himself as a member of the U.S. National Socialist Movement, a group which has been classified as a neo-Nazi organization by the Anti-Defamation League. To me, his presence on campus is not only scary, it’s genuinely dangerous.
As someone who lost many family members during the Holocaust, I am all too familiar with the true horrors of the mass ethnic cleansing which Kleve has shown his support for.
I understand what the university administration means when it says Kleve’s speech is protected under the First Amendment.
But I do take issue with the administration’s judgement that Kleve’s presence and statements don’t violate Section 5 of the UNL Code of Conduct.
Section 5 prohibits “physical abuse, verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, coercion, and/or other conduct that threatens or unreasonably endangers the mental or physical health, safety or reputation of any person.”
I can say without hesitation, Kleve has endangered both the physical and mental health of hundreds of minority students at UNL.
Personally, I am able to approach this situation with a unique perspective. That perspective stems not just from my Judaism, but from a trip I took four years ago.
In the summer of 2014, I was in Israel for a period of five weeks which almost directly corresponded with the Gaza War. During that time, the entire country became an active war zone.
Under the constant threat of rocket fire from Hamas militants, learning what to do in case of an incoming rocket was one of the first things we did once we arrived there.
Sure enough, on two separate occasions I found myself running to a bomb shelter as sirens warned of incoming rockets.
But, each time, I came out of those situations OK. I was unharmed because of a statute in Israel’s 1951 Civil Defense Law which requires bomb shelters to be built in all homes, residential and industrial buildings.
Israel’s government recognized a threat, and it took active measures to ensure the protection of its citizens.
The same can not be said for the administration at UNL.
Kleve presents a clear and undeniable threat to minorities like myself.
I have had one encounter with him. It came just last week when I was walking through the Nebraska Union with a fellow employee of The Daily Nebraskan. We saw Kleve, and I immediately felt a sense of fear and dread greater than the fear I felt while in an active war zone.
I felt such a sense of fear because the administration allowed that threat to remain freely on campus, rather than take preemptive measures to mitigate any threat. Administrators have claimed there are safety nets in place to protect students, but as I looked around, there were no officers or safety personnel in sight.
As a Jew, I felt more fear in the Nebraska Union than I felt while hiding in a bomb shelter in Israel.
That should speak volumes about the effect Kleve has had on my mental health.
Israel’s government has clearly shown that it prioritizes its citizens’ safety above all else by implementing warning sirens, mandatory shelters and a wide array of other protective measures. UNL’s administration says students’ safety is its biggest priority, but its actions would indicate otherwise.
University of Nebraska administrators have shown they value Kleve’s right to hate speech more than they value my right to safety—and that’s unacceptable.
UNL already has a small Jewish community, about 50 total students according to estimates from Hillel. My mother expressed concern about the small Jewish community when I decided to come to UNL, and she worried about the acceptance of other cultures in Nebraska.
For the most part, her fears have been unfounded. But the administration’s backing of Kleve has spoken volumes to me about how minorities are accepted at UNL. It’s prompted me to seriously consider whether I want to continue my education at UNL, and I’m sure countless other minority students have had similar doubts about their futures.
When it comes down to it, I should be free to practice my religion without a fear of harassment or abuse from other students.
Kleve’s presence on campus hinders my ability to do that and that’s an issue.
The safety of other minorities and myself outweighs someone’s right to hate.
Hate will never win,
Assistant Sports Editor