Anyone who thought that minority student complaints about racism at the University of Missouri, which led to the resignations on Monday of system President Timothy Wolfe and Columbia campus Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, were exaggerated should check out this account of developments over the past two days from the campus newspaper, The Maneater.
“Many students were concerned for their safety last night after several threats arose via social media,” the Maneater reported. “Police were all over campus investigating the threats.”
Several posts on the anonymous social media site Yik Yak spurred a police response. “Some of you are alright,” the first yak said. “Don’t go to campus tomorrow.”
Outgoing Chancellor Loftin and the Missouri Students Association (MSA) tweeted to inform the student body. But other threatening yaks surfaced. The university sent out a statement at 7:44 p.m. last night stating that the MU Police Department had “increased security” in response to the threats. Several sorority houses went into lockdown.
“We’re aware of it and we’re looking and trying to identify who it is,” MUPD Maj. Brian Weimer said. Then, at 4:07 a.m. the department tweeted that police had “apprehended the suspect who posted threats to campus on Yik Yak & other social media.”
Weimer said the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center was also threatened Tuesday. It received a phone call at 11 a.m. while the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus was meeting. “The person (who answered the phone call) perceived it as a threat,” Weimer said.
This wasn’t the first threat to the Center or that MU has seen surface on Yik Yak. Last December, someone posted threats to the Center on Yik Yak. “Let’s burn down the black culture center & give them a taste of their own medicine,” the yak said. The individual who posted the yak was never found.
Rumors of a KKK presence on campus also spread over social media shortly after the threats.
“There’s absolutely nothing to indicate that (the KKK is on campus),” MUPD Maj. Brian Weimer said. However, Missouri Students Association President Payton Head posted on Facebook that the KKK had been confirmed on campus. “I’m working with the MUPD, the state trooper and the National Guard,” Head said in the post. Shortly after Head deleted the post and posted a new statement:
I’m sorry about the misinformation that I have shared through social media. In a state of alarm, I was concerned for all students of the University of Missouri and wanted to ensure that everyone was safe,” Head said in the post. “I received and shared information from multiple incorrect sources, which I deeply regret. The last thing needed is to incite more fear in the hearts of our community. In the future, please receive emergency updates from MUalert.missouri.edu or @MUalert on Twitter ONLY.
MSA late yesterday sent an email to professors asking them to cancel class today, following the various threats. “Due to the nature of threats on campus, we must remain vigilant to protect students first and foremost,” the email read. “There is absolutely no reason to keep classes in session, as ALL STUDENTS lives are at risk.”
Some professors had already canceled classes. But at least one professor, Dale Brigham, faced criticism after declining to allow threatened students the ability to make up a test scheduled for today. However, Brigham quickly changed his mind:
Clearly, faculty and students at Missouri face serious challenges and it remains to be seen when, if at all, black students on campus will be able to feel safe from the kinds of threats and epithets that spurred protests in the first place.