There have been numerous reported instances at Oberlin College of writings scrawled on campus using racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay language.  That backdrop led to a shut-down of classes and mass gatherings of students when there was a reported sighting of someone in a Klan outfit, which turned out just to be a woman wrapped in blanket.

There’s no doubt that the writings on their face were racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay, and Oberlin was quick to denounce them as being “hate speech.”  But something curious has occurred in the past day.

There are reports attributed to the Oberlin town police, that two students were identified, and that there is some doubt as to the students’ motivation:

The Associated Press reported that Oberlin police Chief Thomas Miller said the two are under investigation and are facing college disciplinary action, but that no criminal charges have been filed.

It wasn’t clear, he told AP, whether the incidents were meant as pranks or were driven by bigotry.

I spoke this afternoon with Scott Wargo, the media spokesman for Oberlin, in an attempt to get clarification.

I asked Wargo to confirm reports that two students had been identified.  Wargo stated that it was “still an ongoing investigation” and that he “cannot confirm statements by law enforcement officials”

I asked Wargo if the Oberlin administration had any reason to believe that these were a hoax.  He said that he “can’t speak to the motive behind the writings.”  I tried that question several different ways and the response was similar.

Wargo refused to confirm that these were acts motivated by racism not a hoax:

Q.  “Does the administration believe these were acts of racism?”

A.  “Again, it’s an ongoing investigation and I can’t add anything beyond that.”

Wargo also would not comment on the race of the students behind the writings.

I also tried to reach a spokeperson for the Oberlin police, but other than putting me through to a voicemail, there was no one available to handle media inquiries.

Like I said, this may be what it seems on its face.  And if that is the case, one would have hoped the Oberlin administration would be more forthcoming considering the attention this has gathered.


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