My University Called Me A 'Nazi' -My time at Northern Arizona University
College used to be a place for discussion, learning, and growth into adulthood. For this to happen in college, we must have professors who share these goals. My experience at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona showed me that college is not the same place we grew up dreaming about in middle school. College is a place for the professors views, or no views at all.
I took about 4 years off between finishing high school and starting college, due to health issues. I spent most of this time watching the news and studying what was happening in the world. It was what brought me back to school and lit a love for politics within me.
In February 2017, as a freshman political science major, I attended an open panel thrown by the political science department called the Spectrum of Fascism. The event was open to the public and over a hundred people were in attendance. Standing near the back due to the lack of available seats, I filmed the lecture as standing and taking notes is not ideal. While the event went on, a woman I didn’t know took pictures of me. I figured it was pictures of people attending so I didn’t mind.
Towards the end of the event my phone died. I lived three miles off campus, and decided now would be a good time to leave. At the bus-stop outside, I was approached by the same unknown woman who had previously taken the pictures. She asked me if my name was Melissa Miller and if I was the president of the Turning Point USA chapter. I said yes to both. She wouldn't give me her name and asked a few more questions before walking back inside. Some girls from the bus-stop asked me if I was alright, as that woman was ‘in [my] face”. I said yes, but with all of my questions as to why, I decided to go back inside the venue.
I walked in and nudged through people at the door to get to a place to see. While I am looking around Professor Luis Fernandez takes the podium and says,
“Moments ago there was a student in here named Melissa Miller. She’s paid by Turning Point to dox professors!”
I raised my hand and took the moment of students gasping to say, “Well. Hi! Did you all wait ‘till I left the room to talk about me?” An audience member looked at me and took a picture. I smiled.
“You’re here to dox teachers,” he called at me, then went on about how Turning Point USA is an “alt right” organization. Despite my efforts to respond, he hushed me and continued to go on about a growing ‘alt right’ threat to campuses. As a young female, in a room full of people thinking I was a Nazi, without a phone, I snuck out once more when I knew Dr. Fernandez was off me specifically. I got to a Burger King around the corner to figure out what just happened and get my thoughts in order.
When news hit Facebook, my messages became filled with hatred, people accusing me of racism, and people sending death threats. I took the videos to the news to seek justice. They spun the articles in favor of Fernandez and the students who were threatening me.
The halls in the political science wing were plastered with phrases and posters saying ‘Punch a Nazi’ and telling students it’s “OK” to do so. It was entirely unsafe for me to be on campus. People ran up to me and yelled, “Its Melissa Miller! She's a racist!” The school would never offer to help protect me, despite the chair of the political science board being a lecturer that night and knowing what had happened to me.
Articles came out in droves, but when the school’s newspaper, The Lumberjack, was published, Dr. Fernandez admitted the truth. He specifically stated in the article that he didn’t know me and had never spoken to me prior to the accusation. He went on to say that with this attack on my character, I could now ‘understand how minority students feel’.
The paper and the articles made it unsafe for me to attend my classes. Dr. Paul Lenze of international politics said I was behind other videos at the school, and false information from the night of the event. Agreeing with Dr. Fernandez, he stated that I was there for the entirety of the event. Although all other professors there said I left, those two stood their ground in false information. Dr. Lenze could not pick me out of a crowd as I had only been to about two of his classes by this time and never introduced myself to the man. As he was the only professor teaching a required class for my major, I knew I would fail the moment I read the article in The Lumberjack.
Now, for the rest of my life, if an employer Google searches me, they will find articles making out that I am a Nazi. The harassment has followed me and will follow me.
Northern Arizona University never tried to help one of their students facing constant threats. I asked for protection in classes and advice on moving forward, none was given.
I even told the school paper that I would leave NAU the moment I could, due to what had happened. But Dr. Lenze and Fernandez believed I was doing all of this just to cause trouble and further the ‘alt-right’ movement. If this was the case, wouldn’t I still be attending school? Any school? Now, the taste of finishing my college degree seems pointless and terrifying. If professors can so willingly lie about students, who is safe?
To them, I am a criminal.
School is about truth and learning. It seems that idea left the moment some professors step on campus.
This article was originally written in April of 2018 by Melissa Miller and a trusted friend.
Was still too afraid to share it-until now.