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How could Oberlin be so cruel as to play along with the racism hoax?

How could Oberlin be so cruel as to play along with the racism hoax?

The spate of racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and homophobic posters and graffiti that plagued the Oberlin College campus in February 2013 was definitively exposed as a hoax led by a pro-Obama liberal anti-racist student activist seeking to get a reaction from the community.

The post by Chuck Ross of The Daily Caller outlines the details of the police report and his own investigation in that regard.

The Oberlin student body as a whole was not aware of the hoax, although some individuals knew.  Mass hysteria overtook the campus in reaction, with one student erroneously thinking a woman walking at night with a blanket wrapped around her was someone in a KKK outfit.

The media also was not aware of the hoax when it portrayed the incidents as a sign of larger racial problems in society (although many of us in the conservative blogosphere were highly suspicious).

Scott Wargo, press spokesman for Oberlin, was quoted yesterday by AP as follows:

Labeling the fliers or cards a joke doesn’t take away from their impact on the people affected by them, he said.

“You had fliers with threats of violence and hate speech and rape that are being posted on doors and in hallways and on mailboxes,” Wargo said, adding: “It didn’t make it less real for those who had to endure it firsthand, and creating an atmosphere where people are afraid and feel threatened — it isn’t a joke.”

Wargo is right.  But Oberlin has some explaining to do because the administration was fully aware at the time in February and early March 2013 that this was a hoax, yet it never informed the student body of that fact.

Brit Hume posed an important question yesterday on Twitter as to whether the Oberlin President played along:

The answer is yes, the Oberlin administration allowed students to think there was a racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, homophobic student or group of students behind flyers such as “Celebrate Nigger History MUNF! Rape a White Woman!” and “Third Reich Lives On!” accompanied by a Swastika.

How do we know the Oberlin administration was aware of the hoax?  Because the police report shows that on February 27, 2013, Marjorie Burton, Director of Safety and Security at Oberlin informed the Oberlin town police that two students had been identified based on eyewitness statements and surveillance video:

Oberlin Police Report excerpt February 27

Burton also was present when one of the students — the main perpetrator — confessed that it was a hoax meant to get a campus reaction:

Oberlin Police Report excerpt February 27 interview

As Chuck Ross of The Daily Caller elaborates, the student stated that he was just “trolling” because the campus had overreacted to prior incidents, which he denied being involved in, and he wanted to make some sort of point about not overreacting.  (Ross also explained that there is reason to believe this student was behind most if not all of the incidents.)

Given the direct involvement of the Oberlin Director of Campus Safety in these events, it is inconceivable that the President of Oberlin, Marvin Kislov, was not aware, because he was following the investigation not just because of the bias aspect, but because the lead perpetrator also created an email account “[email protected]” which was used to send messages to other students.

On February 27, the same student who admitted to putting up the flyers admitted he wrote anonymous emails, which Oberlin itself and the police were able to connect to the “marv.krislov” email account:

Oberlin Police Report excerpt February 27 A

Oberlin Police Report excerpt February 27 B

When Oberlin cancelled classes on March 4, 2013, it said nothing about its knowledge that this was a hoax:

Oberlin press announcement classes canceled

We hope today will allow the entire community—students, faculty, and staff—to make a strong statement about the values that we cherish here at Oberlin: inclusion, respect for others, and a strong and abiding faith in the worth of every individual. Indeed, the strength of Oberlin comes from our belief that diversity and openness enriches us all, and enhances the educational mission at its core.

The Oberlin police told AP on March 5 that the motives were unclear: ”

It wasn’t clear, [Oberlin police Chief Thomas Miller] told AP, whether the incidents were meant as pranks or were driven by bigotry.

Yet Wargo, Oberlin’s press spokesman, refused to comment on motives even though Oberlin knew as much if not more than the police that the motive was a “prank”:

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.

There was nothing unclear about the motive.  Oberlin was aware that the main perpetrator stated he was doing this only to get a reaction from campus.  Everything in that perpetrator’s background would have supported that he was not racist.  He led a high school group supporting Obama’s election, a fact he almost certainly put on his Oberlin application, and had run a sign up table for the Obama campaign.

Krislov’s direct involvement in the progress of the investigation is demonstrated by this March 6 entry showing Krislov wanted a prosecution based on possible identity theft:

Oberlin Police Report excerpt March 6-2

As of March 6, the investigation as to the bias incidents was completed, all the facts were known and presented to prosecutors, who later declined to prosecute:

Oberlin Police Report excerpt March 6 meeting prosecutor

* * *

Oberlin Police Report excerpt March 14

One has to wonder whether the March 7 announcement by Oberlin that the FBI had agreed to investigate pertained to the bias incidents, or the alleged identity theft issues, or both.  I emailed Krislov and Wargo yesterday afternoon seeking clarification, but have not received a response as of this writing.

Think how differently this would have played out on campus and around the nation if the Oberlin administration had issued a statement stating this was a prank, albeit a cruel prank, by pro-Obama, liberal, anti-racist activists seeking to get create a reaction on campus.  The national conversation on race, and the discussion on campus, would have been not about lingering racism, but about why liberal activists feel the need to perpetrate racial hoaxes.  That, however, would have been too uncomfortable a conversation.

Conor Friedersdorf makes an additional point, that the students had a right to know the truth:

The way I’d put it is that Oberlin students had a right to know that the perpetrators weren’t motivated by Nazi or KKK ideology.

Many feared they were — and for that reason, they did as much damage as actual neo-Nazis or KKK members would have.

Yesterday morning I posed a question to Oberlin press spokesman Wargo:

Why didn’t the President simply tell the community that the perpetrators claimed they were not motivated by racism, anti-Semitism, etc., but seeking to get a reaction from the community? That could have been done generically without identifying names.

I have not received an answer as of this writing.

The Oberlin administration needs to explain how it could be so cruel.

Update: Oberlin issued a statement proving it still doesn’t understand why it was wrong not to disclose the hoax, Oberlin issues statement: “These actions were real”

Related prior posts:


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Will any students sue to be reimbursed for the day of classes cancelled by the school administration?

And after this: how could anyone trust the school administration? As soon as they lied to the public to cover up what they know is a hoax, they became willing participants in the hoax.

    Spring semester, “prestigious, top 3” law school: the professor posts a notice that the once-a-week seminar class in jurisprudence is cancelled so that all students, and the professor, can participate in demonstrations. I went to the law school dean and protested myself, making the tuition argument. The dean told the professor that the seminar had to go forward. So, it went forward with the professor and me, alone. End of semester, the professor gives me a D and switches all the others to a “pass,” even though it had not been designated as a pass/fail class, of which there were very few back then, and even though I was the only student in the class to have turned in the required paper. I made another trip to the dean. My grade was switched to a “pass.”

Will anybody be fired for dishonest lack of judgment?

    MaggotAtBroadAndWall in reply to Valerie. | August 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm


    The Board of Trustees consists of major donors and alumni who love the institution. Given how much media attention the (phony) acts of racism generated back in February, it is inconceivable to me that the Board was not kept in the loop. If that is true, then they had at least a high level of understanding of the facts and how the administration was handling the situation.

    Unless other big donors who are not on the Board raise a fuss, I doubt the Board will act now just because a couple of conservative blogs report on how they allowed the administration to cover-up the whole affair. After all, if my analysis is accurate they effectively condoned the administration’s cover-up as it was happening.

    mariner in reply to Valerie. | August 24, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    That’s a rhetorical question, right?

The Left has ALWAYS employed ‘false flag’ attacks, they think it’s a perfectly acceptable tactic, because, after all, ‘they are right’.

casualobserver | August 24, 2013 at 11:09 am

So many possibilities to “explain” or rationalize this.
> Almost anything is legit in order to ‘start a dialogue’..
> The admin might have been in ‘protection’ mode, worried about whether the two acted alone or with some collaboration from academics – I can imagine a delay to investigate such…
> Perhaps they were pleased with the student body reaction and wanted to further a “teachable moment” as long as there was no harm (??)..

Anyway, I’m pretty certain that as long as the school’s endowment doesn’t suffer, and it is enviable for a college of that size, the admin has no problem rationalizing their behavior for some imagined “greater good”, blah, blah.

nordic_prince | August 24, 2013 at 11:13 am

In the meanwhile, the LSM continue to tiptoe around real incidents of racism, such as the murders of Chris Lane and Delbert “Shorty” Belton, and the thirteen-year-old white boy who was savagely beaten on the school bus by three black kids.

Still waiting on the race-baiters to condemn these pukes in no uncertain terms, and hold “Justice for Chris Lane/Shorty Belton” rallies.

Instead, we’ve got Oberlin College advancing the false narrative of white-on-black racism being the great bogeyman ~

You have done a stellar job on this one right from the get-go, Professor. Thank you!

I anticipate a significant increase in the number of journalism majors enrolling at Oberlin.

It will become a Mecca for classically trained professional journalists with the highest ethical standards.

    arnonerik in reply to Anchovy. | August 24, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Ha! I know you feel that way because of the high standard of ethical behavior demonstrated by the college’s administration. Good point that!

Another Voice | August 24, 2013 at 11:57 am

The purpose of the denial is to continue the perpetuating and pervasive movement of the Progressive/Liberal strong hold agenda for America by directing the ardor of the mission via influence by condoning young adults who unwittingly do “stupid”.

toddlouisgreen | August 24, 2013 at 12:02 pm

If the campus leadership understands that the effects of the “hoax” were as real for students as if it hadn’t been a hoax — per the the school’s press spokesbeing Wargo — then will the students who perpetrated these fear-mongering, campus-halting offenses be treated the same as if they actually were KKK Nazi racists, Republicans, or whatever else is a terminable offense at Oberlin?

I saw a real live Nazi goose stepping down our street this morning.

Okay, maybe he was just a jogger, and I made a mistake.

But that doesn’t make the presence of the Nazi any less real.

Henry Hawkins | August 24, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Though retired from it since my early 40s, I have a long history of perpetrating hoaxes as teaching experiences – UFOs, bigfoot, ghosts, ‘psychic’ abilities, etc., but the tactics and techniques can be adjusted to any subject.

I really REALLY wish I lived closer to Oberlin.

Leftists are fascists.

Cruelty is the last thing that will get in the way of leftists.

You want cruelty? Try inflicting Obamacare on a nation for the greater purpose of controlling its populace.

[…] answer is yes. “Oberlin was aware that the main perpetrator stated he was doing this only to get a reaction […]

[…] That’s horrible but now we learn that the president and administration of private, ultraliberal Oberlin in northern Ohio knew almost from the start that it was fake racist done by two of its own students but didn’t come clean about it. Instead, the college went into a panicked lock-down mentality.… […]