Oberlin College Battles Phony Hate Crimes

Glenn Ricketts

You may recall the big to-do last February and March over a wave of hate incidents that engulfed Oberlin College in Ohio. Racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism – it was all there, as graffiti scrawlings repeatedly appeared around the campus over the course of a month. Read the chronology of events tabulated by the campus newspaper here. Topping it all off was a Ku Klux Klan sighting early in March, which prompted Oberlin president Marvin Krislov to cancel classes for a show of solidarity against “hate.” This, of course, meant heavy doses of public hair-shirting, anger-venting, resolutions in support of diversity, etc., etc., the kind of stout-hearted courage academics often display when there’s nothing to fear. 

All of this was big, no really big, national news, prompting stories in the New York Times, CNN, CBS, and Time, to cite just a few. Big stuff all right, and it wasn’t confined to campus responses either: the FBI was called in to investigate possible federal civil rights violations. (Sounds interestingly similar to this episode at Williams College a couple of years back).

But now the latest: it was all a hoax, perpetrated by two Oberlin students of progressive political inclinations. No Klansmen (it turned out to be a student covering herself with a blanket during a rainstorm), no Nazis, no homophobes, no skinheads, no Aryan Nation types turned up, just a couple of mischievous activists who’d worked hard to get Barack Obama elected. And this is thanks to a blogger at Daily Caller who managed to obtain case documents from the local police force. The administration was not only unforthcoming, but apparently knew of the hoax last March, and chose to allow the “anti-hate” juggernaut to roll on anyway. Can’t waste a “teachable moment,” I guess, even if it’s grounded in outright falsehood. Oberlin’s brief statement in response to the exposure of fraud and cover-up betrays no trace of contrition. No, by God, they stand by their response, since they’ve always been against hate, and will continue to maintain a welcoming campus environment committed to diversity, we stand together, etc. You get the idea: can’t let the truth stand in way of fighting hate, even where there isn’t any. An egregious case, no?  

Just don’t expect the slightest change anywhere in the “anti-bias” policies that helped spawn it. The hate has got to be there. We just didn’t find it this time.

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