Northeastern University student finds questionnaires with fascist references in library
Northeastern University officials will meet Monday with a student after he reported finding paper questionnaires inside a campus library book that included references to Hitler, had a link to an alt-right blog, and asked readers to indicate their areas of interest in fascist topics.
“We are aware and the head of our library system is in contact with the student who found the materials,” Renata Nyul, a university spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
“They should be meeting on Monday, and I may have more information then.”
Matt Bowser, 28, who is pursuing a doctorate in history, said he was researching fascist movements of the 1930s for his dissertation at the university’s Snell Library when he discovered 10 questionnaires inside Robert Paxton’s “The Anatomy of Fascism.”
He had checked out the book a couple of months ago but didn’t get around to reading it until Thursday afternoon, when he found the questionnaires, he said in a phone interview on Saturday.
He shared photos of the forms with other graduate students, who alerted the university via Twitter on Friday.
Bowser said he received an e-mail Saturday from Dan Cohen, Northeastern’s dean of libraries, to schedule Monday’s meeting.
And the two spoke again over the phone on Sunday morning.
Cohen advised him that university officials had gone through the library’s literature on fascism and “didn’t find anything else,” he said in a phone call with the Globe Sunday afternoon.
During the meeting, Bowser will provide the university with the questionnaires and “a detective from Northeastern’s public safety will be present to gather the facts,” Nyul said in an e-mail sent to the Globe Sunday.
“The review of this incident is ongoing,” she added.
The cover of the questionnaire was titled Northeastern University European Resistance and bore an image that resembled the Nazi eagle symbol.
One page had a series of questions, one of which invited participants to indicate their “areas of interest,” including “Alt-Right,” “Fascism,” “Trump,” “White Genocide,” “Immigration,” and “International Jewry,” among others.
The opposite page had phrases written in German.
On the back of the questionnaire was a link to the website therightstuff.biz, an alt-right blog run by Mike Peinovich, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as a white nationalist, Bowser said.
In response to one of the questions inquiring about what “skills/experiences” participants have that “may be beneficial to our movement,” the word “infiltrated” was written in pencil next to NUPride, an organization for LQBTQ students and their allies on campus, and the Progressive Student Alliance.
“That was when I realized this could have actual consequences,” Bowser said. “At first I was like, ‘This is a bunch of kids trying to be edgy.’ But then I realized that this could be a lot more serious very quickly.”
Northeastern’s libraries are open to “students, faculty and staff with a current, valid student or faculty/staff Husky Card,” according to the university’s website, though students and staff can request guest passes to Snell Library for up to two people at a time.
Deanna Schwartz, 18, a rising sophomore at Northeastern, reached out to the Globe after photos of the fliers circulated online.
“As a Jewish student, I’m absolutely terrified,” Schwartz wrote in an e-mail. “I didn’t think I would have to deal with this on my college campus.”