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CONFIRMED: Racist note that prompted St. Olaf College shut down is hate-crime hoax

A note that used the n-word and threatened a black female student at St. Olaf College — sparking an intense protest that led to classes being shut down for a day as student demonstrators accused the school of institutional racism — “was not a genuine threat,” the school’s president said Wednesday.

President David Anderson said in an email to students that an investigation into the note identified a person of interest “who confessed to writing the note.”

“We’ve confirmed that this was not a genuine threat. We’re confident that there is no ongoing threat from this incident to individuals or the community as a whole,” he said.

In a second campuswide email sent later Wednesday, Anderson used stronger words to explain what happened: “The reason I said in my earlier note that this was not a genuine threat is that we learned from the author’s confession that the note was fabricated. It was apparently a strategy to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate.”

Anderson, citing federal student privacy laws, did not identify the person of interest nor use the term hate-crime hoax, but his announcements essentially confirm what some students have said privately to themselves ever since the chaos erupted at the rural Southern Minnesota campus earlier this month.

Around the same time Anderson made the announcement Wednesday, the black female student who initially told everyone she found the note on her car that used the n-word and threatened her announced on social media “I will be saying it was a hoax.”

The typewritten note had stated: “I am so glad that you are leaving soon. One less [n-word] that this school has to deal with. You have spoken up too much. You will change nothing. Shut up or I will shut you up.”

A Facebook screenshot obtained by The College Fix shows Samantha Wells, the student who reported the incident, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday that “it looks like something made its way back to me in the investigation.”

“I will be saying it was a hoax,” she continued. “I don’t care. There is nothing more that I can do. I just wanted to give y’all the heads up.”

In an email to The College Fix, Wells confirmed the post but said it’s since been deleted and that she has “nothing to admit.”

“It was a reaction to something said this morning and my wanting for all of this to end. I did not have to admit anything because there is nothing to admit,” she said.

She said the probe into her case has concluded, but that she couldn’t comment further because of legal reasons.

The April 29 incident in which Wells said she found the alleged note on the windshield of her car was the latest of a string of alleged racial incidents at the private, Lutheran college.

After receiving the note, Wells told Fox News 9 she “immediately shared the note on Facebook and with St. Olaf Public Safety,” saying “I knew I had to share it because it was another incident; it’s the third incident this week.”

Later that day, angry students blocked entrances to the college cafeteria and took over the student commons demanding redress for a string of alleged racial incidents on campus. Administrators canceled classes last Monday to allow demonstrators to air their grievances in a daylong sit-in.

Protesters also put up signs that included language such as “I’m sick of white tears” and “F*ck your white complacency.”

“The campus admins are allowing the commons area to become a bulletin board of complaints against white people. No action has been taken to remove the signs, and no students dare to touch them since there are newly-installed cameras everywhere,” a student who emailed The Fix said.

As the protest took on a life of its own, an email chain among students and scholars at the school shows Wells said she didn’t want the incident to be investigated.

The email thread, which had a subject line of TRACK DOWN RACIST BEHIND THREATS, includes college members discussing how St. Olaf could use its technology to find those behind the alleged racist incidents. As the chain of emails progressed, one student said she was speaking with Wells, who told her “she doesn’t want people tongo [sic] through computers to find the person who wrote the note to her. She does, however, want everything possible to be done for the others.”

The next email in the thread came from Wells.

“I would like to echo Krysta and say that I do not want my case to be investigated,” Wells wrote. “Not because I do not want to let this person go but because I am very stressed and I think that efforts could be utilized elsewhere. That said, I do want them to investigate both previous and possible later cases.”

Wells added she was stressed.

“Also, this message could have been printed off school grounds and could have been printed days, months, or years ago,” she wrote. “I mean heck, I printed off a form today for work (that I didn’t get to turn in whoops) right before I went to my car so I too could be a suspect but even I am not that extra.”

While the investigation into Wells’ case has concluded, Anderson, St. Olaf’s president, said investigations into the other alleged events are ongoing.

There have been nine reported incidents, six of which occurred in April, Anderson said in a recent interview with Minnesota Public Radio.

Anderson told students last month in an email that the racial incidents appear to be “the work of one or a small number of people.”

“This person uses the same modus operandi every time this happens; even the handwriting on the notes is similar from incident to incident,” he wrote.

The reported note in Wells’ case was typed.

MORE: At St. Olaf, conservative students silenced, ‘Christian Zionist’ advisor targeted for removal

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About the Author
Nathan Rubbelke served as a staff reporter for The College Fix with a specialty on investigative and enterprise reporting from 2017 to 2018. He has also held editorial positions at The Commercial Review daily newspaper in Portland, Indiana, as well as at The Washington Examiner, Red Alert Politics and St. Louis Public Radio. Rubbelke graduated from Saint Louis University, where he majored in political science and sociology.