‘I am very stressed’
NORTHFIELD, Minn. – Just hours after she found a typewritten note with a racial slur on her car, St. Olaf College student Samantha Wells said in an email that she didn’t want the school to investigate her case.
That remark came at the same time as racial protests launched on campus, during which angry students blocked entrances to campus buildings, trapping students inside as demonstrators demanded redress for a string of alleged racial incidents on campus.
The aggressive protest forced administrators to cancel classes last Monday to allow demonstrators to air their grievances in a daylong sit-in.
“I am so glad that you are leaving soon. One less [n-word] that this school has to deal with,” the anonymous note Wells found on her car stated. “You have spoken up too much. You will change nothing. Shut up or I will shut you up.”
Wells’ email saying she did not want the person who put the note on her car investigated was obtained by The College Fix on Tuesday. It is part of an April 29 chain that began with a subject line “TRACK DOWN RACIST BEHIND THREATS.” Carbon copied on the email was stolaf-extra, a public email list students can subscribe to at the private Lutheran college.
The thread includes university members speculating on how the college could use its technological resources to identify whoever is behind a string of racial notes found at the college that sparked the protest.
As the discussion continued, one student chimed in and said she is speaking directly to 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.”
Wells replied to the email, confirming the sentiments.
“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 told Fox News 9 she discovered the note on the afternoon of April 29 on the windshield of her car, adding 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.”
Wells, in her email on the campus listserv sent the same day she found the note, also pointed out: “Also, this message could have been printed off school grounds and could have been printed days, months, or years ago. 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.”
She wrote that the incident “is about more than one person being a butthole, it is about an institution and society that allows them to think that they can do something like this. Sorry if I am not making sense but I am extremely stressed by this and part of me wishes that I had never posted the message.”
Wells didn’t respond to The Fix’s request for comment.
For its part, the university says it’s “sparing no effort,” using all its resources to try and identify whoever is behind the notes that sparked the protest. St. Olaf denied The Fix’s request to meet with an administrator to discuss the investigation.
On Tuesday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported the university has “persons of interest” identified in regard to the racial incidents. The university’s vice president and general counsel Carl Crosby Lehmann said those of interest include university members as well as outside individuals.
Spokesperson Kari VanDerVeen told the Star Tribune that St. Olaf “retained a computer forensic consultant who is analyzing evidence relating to one of the recent incidents.”
The university said it’s reached out to the Northfield Police Department for assistance and it has also reportedly contacted the FBI. The Northfield police did not respond to The Fix’s request for comment on their involvement in the investigation.
Northfield Police Chief Monte Nelson told the Star Tribune that his department has initiated investigations in two of the incidents, but that one has been closed “at the victim’s request” without charges, while another remains active.
The university launched a probe following the first racial incident on campus, which allegedly occurred last fall. There have been nine total incidents this academic year, with six occurring in April, St. Olaf President David Anderson told Minnesota Public Radio in a recent interview.
In the interview, Anderson briefly touched on some of the college’s efforts, saying they’ve included reviewing security camera footage, records of computer and printers and comparing handwriting samples.
He added the investigation includes “some other things that we’d rather not disclose in public.”
“These are generating leads,” he said of the efforts.
In an email sent to students last month, Anderson said he believes the racial messages are “the work of one or a small number of people.” He also suggested someone outside the university community could be behind them.
“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. “This person has adopted a strategy similar to the one terrorists use: under the cover of darkness and anonymity engage in acts that frighten, dishearten, and frustrate people with a goal of unsettling the community and turning people against one another.”