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College president cancels classes because of ‘hate speech’ from ‘lowlifes’ on social media

Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard was so mad at the “hate speech” he saw on social media Monday against “students of color” that he sent the community a stream-of-consciousness missive with ALL CAPS, punctuation errors and repeated references to “trolls” and “lowlifes.”

Classes have been canceled today despite a law enforcement assessment that “there is no threat to general campus safety,” Shepard said:

However, and I trust you stand with me on this: a threat to any one of us is an attack on all of us.

Shepard claimed he couldn’t share details because a law enforcement investigation was ongoing, but The Western Front, the school newspaper, cited a spokesman who said the “comments followed a campus wide discussion about the university mascot, the vikings.”

From Shepard’s message:

I need to be VERY clear here: we are not talking the merely insulting, rude, offensive commentary that trolls and various other lowlife’s seem free to spew, willy nilly, although there has been plenty of that, too.  No, this was hate speech.

Of course, “hate speech” without the threat of violence is constitutionally protected.

These are likely crimes in my view (and in the view of those in the criminal justice system we immediately involved). …

We do not know if the perpetrators are Western students.  If not, they face the criminal justice system.  If so, they also face the criminal justice system.  And, when it comes to being associated with Western, I promise you it will not be for long.

That awkward construction, among others, suggests this message didn’t go through the normal university communications vetting before it was sent.

Shepard said the school has “mobilized to offer support and to provide protection to those specifically targeted by the hate speech,” because “students of color” have told him they have a “heightened fear of being on campus.”

The campus needs the day off “to demonstrate our outrage” as well as let the investigation continue, he said:

Have no doubt: this is not a capitulation to those I described as trolls and lowlifes.  We are going after them.

Peter Bonilla of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education flagged Shepard’s message on Tuesday morning, noting it didn’t appear to be vetted by the PR folks, but by the afternoon, he noted the school had fixed some glaring issues with the statement.

Read the message to the community.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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