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Campus hate crime hoaxes: A best-of list

From New Jersey to Wyoming, college campuses around the country have been plagued with hate crime hoaxes in recent years. Sometimes justified as trying to raise awareness for progressive social causes, the hoaxes often worked.

The College Fix compiled this list of recent university hate crime hoaxes.

Racist Facebook messages posted by student himself – November 2014

A University of Chicago student admitted to posting racist and violent messages against himself on his Facebook page after claiming his account was hacked. The elaborate hoax was an attempt to shame the school into making policy changes addressing race on campus.

The con artist, Derek Caquelin, initially said that a group known as the UChicago Electronic Army was responsible for hacking his account. Caquelin claimed that the hackers were seeking retaliation for his online complaints about offensive Halloween costumes.

He eventually confessed to the hoax – which prompted a federal investigation – on his Facebook page. But it didn’t stop more than 400 of the school’s students from signing a petition demanding the university make tangible policy changes to “address the culture of racial intolerance at the University of Chicago.”

‘White Only’ and ‘Colored’ signs publicity stunt – August 2014

In an effort to “make a point” about social injustice, a student at Sweet Briar College in Virginia hung signs on doors and water fountains in a dormitory reading “White Only” and “Colored.”

The interim president of the all-female liberal arts college, James Jones, tried to spin the stunt into a teachable moment.

In an announcement to the Sweet Briar community, Jones noted that the previous night the community had watched the play Sweet Remembrance, which depicts “a racially divided world view.” The president speculated: “Someone, moved by the play, sought to use the old, abusive words to remind us that while such terms were part of the historical past, some of the emotions lurking behind the words might still linger in a few.”

The vandal emailed Jones explaining the hoax, writing that her mission was to show that “words can still have an extreme impact.”

In a response email, Jones asked that the student turn herself in, but noted that her hoax was “well intentioned.”

The hangman graffiti – March 2014

Police determined that a Grand Valley State University student who found racist graffiti on her dorm room whiteboard was the same person who drew it.

The drawings consisted of a hangman surrounded by the words “black bitch die” and “fuck black history month.”

The public liberals arts school in Michigan nevertheless hosted a campus-wide “Teach-In,” which featured student and faculty presentations about preventing discrimination and oppression on the university’s campuses.

Transgender student tasked with responding to bias creates it – November 2013

After two Vassar College students claimed they were victims of a series of hateful messages posted on students’ residences, the messages were revealed to be a hoax perpetrated by the two students themselves.

The messages included “Avoid Being Bitches,” “Fuck Niggers,” and “Hey Tranny. Know Your Place.”

One of the students, Genesis Hernandez, identifies as transgender and was a member of the school’s Bias Incident Response Team. Hernandez and the fellow hoax perpetrator withdrew from the school after the hoax was uncovered.

“It is our unfortunate duty to report that two Vassar students have admitted responsibility for creating a number of recent bias and hate-speech messages in public spaces on campus,” Vassar President Catherine Hill wrote in an email announcement. “They also falsely reported these as anonymous messages. Sadly, our community has been deeply hurt by these actions.”

Wyoming student threatens to rape herself – April 2013 

An anonymous posting was made to a Facebook page called “UW Crushes,” which appeared to sexually harass a University of Wyoming student named Meghan Lanker-Simons.

“I want to hatefuck Meg Lanker Simons so hard,” the message read. “That chick runs her liberal mouth all the time and doesn’t care who knows it. I think its so hot and makes me angry. One night with me and shes gonna be a good Republican bitch.”

Students, faculty and community spoke about rape culture and the role of social media in society at a rally on UW’s campus after the post appeared.

There was only one problem: Lanker-Simons was the author of the post, police determined. She was charged with interference with a police investigation. Police collected “substantial evidence” showing the post was made from Lanker-Simons’ personal computer while it was in her possession.

Alleged ‘KKK’ sighting results in cancelled classes – March 2013

Officials at Oberlin College in Ohio cancelled classes after an alleged sighting of a “KKK” figure wearing a white robe and hood on campus. Despite no photo or video evidence of the story, the school hosted a series of discussion groups to help students cope with the disturbing report.

It may have simply been a student wrapped in a blanket.

“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,” the university said in a statement.

“Indeed, the strength of Oberlin comes from our belief that diversity and openness enriches us all, and enhances the educational mission at its core.”  

Racist, anti-Semitic messengers are staunch Obama supporters – March 2013

Two Oberlin College students were found to be the facilitators of a month-long circulation of racist, anti-Jewish and anti-gay messages around campus. Among the messages were “Whites Only” written above a water fountain, “Nigger Oven” appearing in an elevator and a note in the Multicultural Resource Center reading “Nigger + Faggot Center.”

What’s more, it was discovered that the students – who were removed from the school – are avid supporters of Barack Obama. One of the students, Dylan Bleier, organized a voter registration drive at a Walmart in Ithaca, New York, on behalf of the senator before the 2008 presidential election. 

Lesbian caught faking anti-gay notes – July 2012

A Central Connecticut State University student told hundreds of the school’s students at a rally that she had been receiving hateful messages in her dorm room for being a lesbian. But after setting up surveillance cameras to identify the perpetrator, police discovered the alleged victim, Alexandra Pennell, was writing the notes herself.

After setting up a camera in Pennell’s room with her permission, police discovered the camera had been disabled twice, and a note arrived during one of those times. Police then set up a second camera in a hall closet without Pennell’s knowledge, which captured her leaving the notes.

Pennell told police she faked the notes to get her roommate to spend more time with her. She was expelled from the university and charged with eight felony counts of fabricating evidence and eight misdemeanor charges.

New Jersey students write racial graffiti aimed at themselves – February 2012 

Two black students at Montclair State University in New Jersey reported finding hateful and threatening graffiti aimed at African Americans and women on their dorm room doors. One of the messages read, “Black B—- you will die.”

The graffiti prompted the university’s students to hold a rally in response to a string of bias incidents that had been happening on the campus, including threats to gay and lesbian students.

Police, however, discovered that the students, Olivia McCrae and Tanasia Linton, penned the graffiti themselves. They were arrested with “sufficient probable cause” and charged with making false reports, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.

Law student makes up police harassment story – April 2011

A black student at the University of Virginia Law School penned a letter to the editor of the school’s newspaper, Virginia Law Weekly, alleging that he was harassed and racially profiled by two UVa police officers.

The student, Jonathan Perkins, wrote that two white police officers stopped and questioned him, telling him that he “fit the description of someone we’re looking for.” The officers allegedly made fun of Perkins, frisked him, and refused to give him their names and badge numbers.

“As I stood there, humiliated, with my hands on the police car, my only thought was: ‘There is nothing I can do to right this wrong. I have absolutely no recourse,’” Perkins wrote.

A university investigation, however, found that Perkins made up the story. Perkins confessed to the fabrication, claiming in a statement that “I wrote the article to bring attention to the topic of police misconduct. The events in the article did not occur.”

‘You get more of the behavior you decide to reward’

So why have our nation’s campuses been flooded with such hoaxes? Robert Shibley, senior vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, wrote last year that students invent hate crimes because they know they can make a “political statement” or get a “major reaction” out of their campuses with very little effort.

“Economists and parents alike know that you get more of the behavior you decide to reward,” Shibley wrote. “If your goal is to make a political point about discrimination, or simply to rile people up, creating a racial issue on campus is a surefire method to do so.”

Racism and hate crimes are certainly problems that should not go unnoticed. But progressive activits don’t seem to care about solving these problems. As the hoaxes have demonstrated, they inflate them to draw attention to their causes. By creating hate in an instance where there is none, these polarizing divides may remain in place for generations to come.

College Fix reporter Michael Cipriano is a student at American University.

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IMAGE: Ashley Marinaccio/Flickr

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