It’s been a busy few days for Virginia’s Sweet Briar College as the fall semester kicks off. A precautionary lockdown has been lifted, about an hour-and-a-half after the school received a threatening phone call from a man at an off-campus location.
There’s no indication that this incident was related to an earlier brouhaha that drew the sharp attention of school administrators last week, including President James Jones. It seems that someone hung “White Only” and “Colored” signs on doors and water fountains in a dormitory at Sweet Briar — offensive labeling that caused quite a stir.
The website collegeinsurrection.com covered the clamor that arose, in an article entitled, “Hate Crime Hoax: Social Justice Crusader Hangs ‘White Only’ and ‘Colored’ Signs on Bathroom Doors.”
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Yes, it turned out that the so-called “hate crime” at the all-female liberal arts college was not the work of a racist, but rather of one misguided student trying to remind people of times past. But the incident generated quite a few harsh messages from the office of the school’s president:
“Sometime between 8 and 10:30 this morning, four labels, made with a label-maker, were affixed to doors and the water cooler on the fourth floor of Meta Glass,” wrote President James Jones. “As difficult as this is to believe, two of the labels read ‘White Only,’ and two ‘Colored.’ ”
“… we [may] have among us someone who is essentially bigoted and mean-spirited who would recall the Jim Crow days of separation, mirroring the apartheid of South Africa that summoned the calm voice of reason of Nelson Mandela to decry hatred and to seek to change one’s immediate environment for the better.”
When the stunt was exposed as a hurtful hoax, Sweet Briar’s President Jones speculated on its inspiration:
The vandalism was justified in part by President Jones in his two letters to the campus community because the school hosted a play during freshman orientation called “In Sweet Remembrance” that delved into the 113-year-old college’s segregated past. The signs were hung the day after the play debuted on campus.
Thecollegefix.com reminds us that much more serious hoaxes of a similar nature have been uncovered at a number of colleges and universities:
March 24, 2014: The Grand Valley State University student who found racist graffiti on her dorm room door’s whiteboard in mid-February is the same person who put it there, police have determined.
November 27, 2013: Hate Crime Hoax Exposed at Vassar College
March 6, 2013: Oberlin College: Alleged ‘KKK figure’ possibly just a ‘person wrapped in a blanket’
July 3, 2012: A lesbian student who received threatening notes–which provoked the campus to host a tolerance rally in her name–fabricated the whole ordeal.
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