By Laura Diamond Updated: 5:33 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 2013 | Posted: 1:59 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 2013 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Fall semester won’t start for several weeks, but Georgia State University has already received a handful of complaints about a new student club — the White Student Union.
Freshman Patrick Sharp said he started the club so that students of European and Euro-American descent can celebrate their shared history and culture and discuss issues that affect white people, such as immigration and affirmative action.
The club is not an official student group recognized by the university. Sharp said any student can join and that he would work with other clubs, such as the Black Student Alliance, on common issues.
Georgia State is highly diverse, with whites comprising 38 percent of the student body, followed by blacks at 35 percent, Asians at 12 percent and Latinos at 7 percent.
“If we are already minorities on campus and are soon to be minorities in this country why wouldn’t we have the right to advocate for ourselves and have a club just like every other minority?” said Sharp, 18. “Why is it when a white person says he is proud to be white he’s shunned as a racist?”
Sharp, who is from Birmingham, Ala., enrolled this summer. Six students complained to the university after seeing his fliers around campus, said Doug Covey, vice president for student affairs. Covey said he responded to each by explaining he group is within its right to exist and that speech is protected even if offensive to someone.
Covey said Georgia State prides itself on diversity. “Many students choose to come to Georgia State over other colleges because of our diversity. We are proud to have a richly diverse environment that looks like the world in which our students will live and work and lead.”
Georgia State has more than 300 university recognized student clubs. These groups can reserve meeting space on campus and are eligible for financial support from activities fees.
Even without official status, the White Student Union can meet in common areas on the downtown Atlanta campus, Covey said.
Sharp said he doubts he will seek official status. The group would need a faculty or staff advisor and Sharp doubts he’d find one. He said a handful of students have joined so far.
He said he expects critics to call him and the group racist.
“I’ve already heard some of that and I don’t care what they have to say,” Sharp said.
Sharp said he was inspired to start the union after viewing videos and interviews with Matthew Heimbach, who started a White Student Union at Towson University in Maryland.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the Maryland club as a “hate group” and two of its members recently advocated for racial segregation at a Conservative Political Action Conference.
Sharp said that doesn’t concern him.
“All we want to do is celebrate white identity,” he said. “This is about being in touch with who you are as a white person and being proud of that.”