Some of the racist incidents that led Oberlin College to cancel classes for a day in March are now being described as a "joke" by a student who was trying to get a reaction from the community, according to a police report obtained by The Huffington Post.
The Associated Press and the Daily Caller first reported on police reports that said two students took credit for least some of the racist incidents that occurred in the lead-up to the cancellation of classes at the private college.
Oberlin, a historically liberal school in Ohio, cancelled classes for a "Day of Solidarity" on March 4, after the supposed sighting of a figure in what appeared to be a Ku Klux Klan hooded robe on campus. Police later said they believed that sighting was actually a woman with a blanket, but the incident came after a month-long series of racist and homophobic markings on campus -- including a large Nazi flag, anti-Islam flyers, racist cards and a "whites only" sign written above a water fountain.
According to an Oberlin City police report, also obtained by HuffPost, one student said he was responsible for anti-Islam flyers, racist cards, a Nazi flag, and the pasting of the head of Oberlin's president onto a photo of Adolf Hitler. The report also says that a student who was caught by campus security with anti-Islam flyers and racist cards said he was posting the flyers to "troll" the college. It's unclear if the report is referring to the same student when describing both incidents, as the student's name is redacted. However, the wording seems to indicate that it is the same person in both situations.
"I'm doing it as a joke to see the college overreact to it as they have with the other racial postings that have been posted on campus," the student who was caught with anti-Islam posters told police, according to the Feb. 27 police report.
When the student was caught posting the anti-Islam flyers, he was with a second student, the report said. While the second student said he had no knowledge of the posters and had nothing to do with the "sickening Nazi paraphernalia" being posted around campus, the police report noted that surveillance footage showed the second student making the anti-Islam posters.
The students were not prosecuted and an investigation was suspended, Oberlin Police Lt. Mike McCloskey told the AP. McCloskey confirmed to HuffPost that the students were never charged.
In another incident detailed in the police report, Oberlin President Marvin Krislov asked Lorain County prosecutors to look into possibly pressing charges against two students who used the email address firstname.lastname@example.org to direct a student towards "obscene" comments posted about her online.
On June 7, the city prosecutor decided against pressing charges and the case was considered closed by police, the official report says.
Oberlin subsequently said in a statement posted Friday that the campus community was notified in March that the college identified two students who might be responsible for some of the racist incidents. Wargo told the AP that Oberlin's college judicial system is handling the students' cases.
When asked by HuffPost why the college cancelled classes on March 4 when it knew that at least some of the incidents were meant to provoke a reaction from the Oberlin community, school spokesman Scott Wargo said, "The community was provided details regarding the college’s investigation into the incidents while respecting federal law and with regard to the internal judicial process."
Wargo said he was constrained by Oberlin's internal judicial process from discussing what administrators knew about the reasons behind the racist incidents. Oberlin officials insisted that they can't provide specifics of the case due to the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal privacy law that colleges are rarely punished for violating.
However, the police report documents extensive incidents of hateful messages found on campus, and says that least two female students were threatened with "obscene" and "derogatory" posts about them online and in notes left at their doors.
The college has pushed back on the idea that administrators overreacted. Wargo told the AP that the situation wasn't any "less real for those who had to endure it firsthand" because postings may have been considered a joke by some.
"As we have stated, these incidents occurred on a virtually daily basis over a period of weeks," Oberlin's said in its statement posted on Friday. "The acts in question included racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic graffiti, flyers, and Internet postings, as well as written harassment of targeted individuals including threats of bodily harm and rape. We take all such threats seriously and recognize that our obligation is to assure the safety of all members of our community."