UPDATE: This story has been updated to clarify the strike committee's stance on the graffiti at Faner Hall.
The anonymous committee that has done the most to articulate the grievances feeding the planned May 2 student strike on the SIU campus has its roots in Carbondale’s radical and anarchist counterculture, as well as in the university’s own philosophy department.
The anonymous writings at may2strike.noblogs.org, and the subsequent publication of them in SIU’s campus newspaper, have urged students and faculty to shut down the university Monday to protest, among many issues, rising student debt, racism and sexism, administrative salaries, and the university’s stalled hiring process for a professor of African American and Africana philosophy.
The handle to which all of the blog posts are credited also has written on the noblogs.org blogging platform about the Occupy movement at St. Louis University in 2014 and the program “The Counterpower Radio Hour” on local community station WDBX — issues that can both be associated with 32-year-old Nick Smaligo, a former graduate student in the SIU Department of Philosophy.
Smaligo, who wrote a book on the Occupy movement and traveled to the SLU occupation in 2014, has written previously on issues of student debt and is involved with “The Counterpower Radio Hour.” The program serves as the radio voice for the Flyover Infoshop, a radical meeting space on North Washington Street with which Smaligo is involved that also has been promoted as an organizing spot on the May 2 strike blog.
Smaligo declined to comment about his association with the strike committee when reached Friday.
Randall Auxier, a professor in SIU’s Department of Philosophy, writes a column in the April 30 issue of the Weekend Times about some of the issues that precipitated the May 2 movement — namely the dispute over the hiring of the Africana philosophy professor — and told the Times separately that the May 2 Strike Committee grew largely out of this agenda. He confirmed that police have questioned him.
“It is true that philosophy students have been involved,” Auxier said. “It is true that the SIU police have met with me this week. I have no knowledge of any wrong-doing by anyone I know, and I do not feel persecuted by the authorities. It seems to me that the SIU authorities are responding constructively under the circumstances, and I believe they understand the legitimacy of the complaints of the Flyover folks, and others.”
Auxier called both Smaligo and Johnathan Flowers — a graduate student in philosophy who has led sit-ins this week to promote the Africana professor hire, but has not been involved with the strike committee, Auxier said — “very brave.”
“Nick and Johnathan are very different personalities, both highly intelligent, highly motivated, and differently effective in their ways of making their points,” Auxier said. “I think they agree about the character of the problems, for the most part, but differ on how best to address them. Johnathan works within the system without legitimizing it. Nick questions the legitimacy of the system and seeks solutions from beyond the existing paths.”
There is no clear evidence that the May 2 Strike Committee itself has broken any law, and it has in fact denounced an anonymous YouTube video advocating lynchings and racial violence on May 2. The committee has denounced the call for a riot that appeared two weeks ago on Faner Hall, although it has praised other graffiti that was found on the campus building.
Rae Goldsmith, the university’s chief communications officer, said that because of the strike committee’s stated peaceful intentions, the university has not worried too much about its planned demonstration or the identities of its members.
“We haven’t been concerned with unmasking the May 2 group because it has been concerned with peaceful protest,” Goldsmith said.
The university has expressed overwhelming concern, however, for the violence against blacks advocated by the anonymous YouTube video, which has since been removed from the video website.
Earlier this week, Interim SIUC Chancellor Brad Colwell unequivocally denounced the video.
Sam Beard, who is not on the strike committee but has served as its media liason, said that in light of how events have unfolded, the four members of the committee, which has now disbanded, hope students will rally primarily against racism on the SIU campus.
“They didn’t expect to be co-opted by white supremacists,” Beard said Friday.
A formal gathering is set to take place at 10 a.m. Monday at the fountain outside Faner Hall, and a series of teach-ins also has been scheduled for the day.
While the university is encouraging students to attend class, it said in an online posting that attendance will be “a personal choice.”
SIU Police Chief Benjamin Newman did not return a call seeking comment Friday, although his officers continue to investigate. On Friday afternoon, a video posted to YouTube showed SIU Police personnel visiting the Flyover Infoshop. One detective drops his gun as he is getting back into his car.
Correction: Wednesday’s story Anonymously, SIU turns on itself in the Carbondale Times implied the strike committee produced the original YouTube video that then was redubbed with racist language by another entity. In fact, Beard said the committee was not involved in the production of the original video.