St. Olaf President Says Racist Note Was 'Fabricated'

May 11, 2017 12:02 AM

The President at St. Olaf College has informed members of the campus community that a racist note an African-American woman found on her car April 29 was fabricated.

President David R. Anderson wrote in an an email that the note was "apparently a strategy to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate."


The school confirmed the email was sent, as well as an earlier email from Anderson informing the campus community the school had confirmed the note was not a genuine threat.

RELATED: St. Olaf VP: FBI Offers to Assist Police in Racist Messages Investigation

Students said the woman discovered a typed note that read, in part, "I am so glad that you are leaving soon. One less (expletive) 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.'

The note spawned a sit-in that continued through the weekend. The college canceled class that Sunday night in anticipation of that Monday's planned demonstrations.  Samantha Wells was there talking to the crowd about the note she found on her car. 

RELATED: Students, St. Olaf President Reach Agreement to End Sit-In

The following morning, hundreds of students filled Tomson Hall for a sit-in organized by "St. Olaf Students of Color, Marginalized Groups on Campus and International Students." Before sharing instances of racism on campus, the members laid out a list of demands for the administration.

The protesters were able to reach an agreement with Anderson to end their sit-in Monday afternoon.

Eight days after that demonstration, an email from Wells to Northfield Police states she didn't want police to investigate.

"I'm graduating in 19 days and then leaving for Germany in June.  I would rather not spend the end of my college career and my last month and a half in the U.S. worrying about an investigation," she wrote in an email sent to police.

In his second email Wednesday, Anderson said that concerns expressed by students were real and need to be addressed.

"Despite this fact, those concerns are real and, as I said earlier, we are committed to the process we have begun to address them," Anderson wrote.

"We also continue earnestly to investigate all of the other racist and hateful messages that have been reported."

Students on campus Wednesday had mixed reaction to the news.

"This person should get some kind of punishment.  The person who wrote this letter probably had their own non-threatening agenda, but we were scared the people that were targeted were scared," said one student.

"This is one small incident among many, and so finding out one may not be what we thought is was, should in no way change what the rest of them have been," another student said.  

"If anything this underscores the need to have these discussions and continue to approach this topic ," a third student said.

RELATED: St. Olaf College Students Protest Racist Acts on Campus

Earlier this week, the vice president and general counsel at the school said the FBI called Northfield police to offer its assistance into the investigation of recent racist messages on campus.

Vice President Carl Crosby Lehman said the college has been in constant contact with the Northfield Police Department on the issue, and that he also reached out to the FBI after hearing about its phone call with Northfield Police.

The text of the two emails was as follows:

I am writing with an update on the College's investigation into the racist messages and acts of hate that have occurred on campus.

We've completed our investigation of the incident involving the racist and threatening note that was reportedly left on a student's car on April 29. We confronted 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.

We continue to investigate the other racist incidents, which we are taking very seriously. 

I want to state very clearly that while this was not a genuine threat, we remain committed to the process we have begun to address the concerns about the campus climate that have been raised.

I am getting many requests for more information and follow-up to my message this morning. Considering the extraordinary impact that particular note on April 29th had on our campus, I sympathize with the desire for more information. I would love to provide it.

Unfortunately, Federal student privacy laws prohibit the College from disclosing the identity of the author of that note and from disclosing the actions taken by the College now that we know the author's identity.

But I can tell you this. 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.

Despite this fact, those concerns are real and, as I said earlier, we are committed to the process we have begun to address them. We also continue earnestly to investigate all of the other racist and hateful messages that have been reported. 



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