White supremacist groups are increasingly using propaganda like fliers and posters to spread bigoted messages on college campuses, a new report by the Anti-Defamation League found.
In the past academic year, 292 such incidents were reported — a 77 percent increase from the previous year, according to the report, which is set to be released on Thursday. The stickers, banners and other physical materials included racist and anti-Semitic messages and often targeted Muslims, nonwhite immigrants and L.G.B.T. people.
Spreading propaganda across college campuses has become a popular tactic for white supremacist groups in recent years, said Oren Segal, the director of the A.D.L.’s Center on Extremism.
“They’re trying to engage with what they hope are future members of their organizations, followers of their ideology,” he said in an interview. “They have put a premium on winning hearts and minds.”
As part of this strategy, white supremacist groups try to expand their reach by encouraging anyone with internet access to download the materials and spread their messages, he said.
In recent years, members of the far right — including white supremacists and neo-Nazis — have made themselves increasingly visible at events like a rally in Charlottesville, Va., last year that turned deadly when a man drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters.
White supremacist groups have also rallied at multiple colleges in the past year in conjunction with speakers like the white nationalist Richard Spencer, events that often intentionally drum up outrage and prompt protests that draw national attention.
Since September 2016, the Anti-Defamation League has recorded 478 instances of white supremacist propaganda at colleges and universities, according to the report. Texas and California were the most frequently targeted states, which the league attributes to more concentrated membership in those states from the most active white supremacist groups.
The anti-immigrant group Identity Evropa was behind nearly half of the 478 reports recorded by the A.D.L. Identity Evropa describes itself as “a fraternal organization for people of European heritage located in the United States that participates in community building and civic engagement,” but the A.D.L. classifies it as a white supremacist group and the Southern Poverty Law Center describes it as a white nationalist group.
Far-right groups have increased their activity since President Trump’s election, and white nationalist leaders have been encouraged by how the president has spoken about their behavior. In a report released earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League found that anti-Semitic episodes had increased 57 percent in 2017 from the year before.
The new report documented racist fliers covering photos of black historical figures outside the University of South Carolina’s African-American studies program, as well as fliers at multiple schools encouraging students to report undocumented immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Mr. Segal said the Anti-Defamation League provides guidance for universities on how to respond to racist or anti-Semitic propaganda on their campuses, a delicate task that can get complicated when the messaging on the posters is not illegal or even contrary to the school’s code of conduct.
At Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, the administration drew criticism this year from students for its initial response to anti-immigrant fliers posted around campus. Kelly Quintanilla, the university’s president, said in a statement to the campus community that such incidents were the “price we pay for our precious right to freedom of speech,” prompting demands from student activists for the university to investigate and find who was responsible.
“We felt it was a threat to our immigrant students,” said Daniel Yzaguirre, a student activist who recently graduated from the university.
The administration decided to turn the case over to the local district attorney’s office, which determined that the fliers were not a threat, according to an email sent to students and staff members.
A spokeswoman for the university could not be reached for comment. Dr. Quintanilla said in a statement to students and employees that she recognized there were a variety of opinions on how administrators should respond to these “vile, yet protected messages.”
“Personally, I choose not to be drawn into this divisiveness, because to do so gives the groups who spread hate exactly what they want,” she said.
Farther north, administrators at Texas A&M’s campus in College Station this year changed the university’s policy to heavily restrict the placement of fliers and posters carrying any message — whether it is filled with hate toward a group of people or simply advertising a new club.
“You cannot discriminate by content because of freedom of speech, and so we’re careful not to do that,” said Amy B. Smith, a university spokeswoman. “We’re not going to have fliers of any kind littering our campus.”
The hundreds of incidents referred to in the report cover 47 states and the District of Columbia.
In creating its report, the Anti-Defamation League relied mostly on complaints, news reports, and posts from the extremist groups themselves, which often publicize these activities, Mr. Segal said. The A.D.L. also aimed to establish the credibility of the reports through photos and confirmation from third parties.