University of Montana professor Tobin Miller Shearer, director of the African-American studies program, said he noticed something was wrong right away Thursday morning as he passed the bulletin board in the Liberal Arts building on campus.
The day before, Shearer had posted a flyer outlining a new class he is offering in the spring: “White Supremacy History/Defeat.”
But on Thursday morning, another sign — designed to look just like Shearer’s poster — had been put up atop his, this one detailing a fictitious course “Black Nationalism History/Defeat.”
Whoever made the new flyer had copied Shearer’s layout, including the font and location of a photo, and changing the bullet points of the course objectives from ones like Shearer’s “Implement and evaluate a project to dismantle white supremacy in the U.S.” to the same line directed at “black nationalism.”
The false sign said the class also would include group projects “aimed at dismantling race-baiting hypocrisy.”
“It’s very disturbing because of the amount of time that was put into making it look real,” Shearer said.
A detail that stuck out to Shearer was that his name on the original flyer was replaced by the (misspelled) name of the former director of the program, who hasn’t been at the school for a decade.
“It’s at best someone who knows the history of the program. At worst, it’s another faculty member who knows the history,” Shearer said.
Shearer said this isn’t the first time racially charged messages have been targeted at the African-American studies program. Last year Shearer found himself on a national “Professor Watchlist” put together by the conservative group Turning Point USA, which accused him of discriminating against conservative students and pushing a “radical agenda.” Students have reported other incidents of hate speech or hate acts to him, he added.
Shearer, who said he found the fake flyer harassing to himself and his students, reported it to the University of Montana Police Department, which did not return a request for comment on Thursday.
“I’m not surprised by this," Shearer said. "I’m disturbed by this."