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Kade Ferris, Published October 09 2013

Letter: Inclusion of Cobb at UND symposium is questioned

On Monday, the University of North Dakota held a symposium entitled “Cobbsville? A White Supremacist Takeover of Leith, North Dakota.” It was reported by local news sources that noted white supremacist leader Craig Cobb was invited to, and participated in, a panel discussion on civil rights, social justice, and Leith, N.D., sponsored by the university.

By inviting Cobb to participate in this symposium, UND has made the conscious decision to legitimize him (in at least a small way) by treating his viewpoints and positions as somehow deserving to be treated as valid and afforded him a stage to be heard. While it is educationally unbiased and academically enlightened to allow Cobb a place in the discussion on race, it is naive to believe that his intentions are in any way equal or benign.

Is UND aware that Cobb is the creator of the website Podblanc, which is a white supremacist video sharing website billed by Cobb as an alternative to YouTube? On Podblanc, Cobb has praised persons who have murdered minorities through spree killing, and has actually called on lone wolf racists to assassinate enemies of his cause.

He is wanted in Canada on a warrant for fomenting hate, and his current efforts to build his white utopia also include granting land ownership in Leith to hate mongers such as Tom Metzger (former Grand Dragon of the KKK) and others. As such, we now have one of the most dangerous white supremacists as a land owner in Grant County – one who, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is suspected of conspiring to damage and destroy buildings and property, stemming from a 2004 mail bomb that targeted the Scottsdale, Ariz., diversity office.

While we understand that UND has come a long way in its efforts to become a diverse and inclusive educational institution, we cannot forget that the university is still embroiled in an ongoing struggle over its Fighting Sioux nickname, and is only a decade or so past the scandals surrounding its benefactor Ralph Engelstad and his love of Nazi memorabilia and his infamous 1988 Nazi-themed birthday bash in Las Vegas.

Considering that UND has such a sizable minority student population, I am dismayed that the university so flippantly allowed Cobb a platform for his anti-minority rhetoric and hate. As an alumnus, I question the judgment of my former university. As a minority, I am disturbed by the voice that UND granted to this man.

As a member of UnityND who was at Leith and saw Cobb and his Nazi brethren flying the swastika all over town, I am dismayed that UND has afforded even a drop of legitimacy to his dangerous and hate-filled message. As the grandson of a World War II veteran, I am sure my Ojibwe/Arab grandfather who fought against the Nazis is rolling over in his grave.

Ferris, Belcourt, N.D., is with UnityND.