Hate Crimes Expert to Highlight School of Social Work Lecture Series

Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) Intelligence Project, a hate-crimes watchdog group, will speak at The University of Texas at Austin Oct. 7.

The lecture, "Hate in America: What Can Be Done?," will be held at 2 p.m. in the Flawn Academic Center Atrium. Sponsored by the Dean Jack Otis Social Problem and Social Policy Lecture in the School of Social Work, the event is free and open to the public.

Potok will discuss the development of organized hatred in the United States, the use of immigration and other issues by radical-right ideologues and the increase of race-motivated violence. He also will examine how different sectors of the community--legislators, law enforcement officials and concerned citizens--can combat these trends.

Potok monitors hate groups and tracks extremist activity throughout the United States. He provides comprehensive updates to law enforcement, the media and the public through the center's quarterly magazine, Intelligence Report. In 2007, the report was honored as the best U.S. periodical in-depth investigative reporting by the Utne Independent Press Awards.

"Hate crimes as a topic is important because the SPLC has documented 888 hate groups currently operating in the United States, a number that has grown by a staggering 48 percent since 2000," said Dr. Jack Otis, who established the lecture and is former dean of the School of Social Work.

"For more than 25 years, through legal suits brought by the SPLC, many hate groups have been held accountable and put out of business. Mark Potok is uniquely qualified to discuss hate crimes and to recommend what should be done to reduce them."

The SPLC, based in Atlanta, was founded in 1971 as a small civil rights law firm. It is internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups. In 1981, the center began investigating hate activity in response to a resurgence of groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

Before joining the center, Potok spent 20 years as an award-winning reporter at newspapers, including USA Today, the Miami Herald and the Dallas Times Herald. While at USA Today, he covered the 1993 siege in Waco, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the trial of Timothy McVeigh.

Potok's lecture is co-sponsored by the College of Communication, the School of Law and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.