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Lewis & Clark Students Protest Racist Threat


The Yik Yak app, lower, left, is seen on an iPhone in Washington, Nov. 11, 2015.

The Yik Yak app, lower, left, is seen on an iPhone in Washington, Nov. 11, 2015.

Ronald Lizik

Students at Lewis and Clark College are protesting and holding workshops Wednesday in response to racist threats posted on a social media site. Portland Police said Wednesday that the anonymous  threats did not represent “an immediate threat to students or staff at” the college. 

Officials at the Portland college say the Black Student Union alerted administrators to posts that initially surfaced Tuesday afternoon, on the social media site, Yik Yak.

Nick Hensel, who calls herself a “white accomplice” with the college’s Black Student Union, said she learned of the threatening messages as her friends were on their way to administrative offices to alert college officials.

“Of course, it’s horrifying and awful, and my very close friends don’t feel safe when their bodies are threatened,” Hensel said. But she wasn’t surprised.

“It didn’t come out of the blue for me, wasn’t out of the ordinary.”

Hensel recalled incidents in each of the last two years involving racist messages.   

College spokesman Roy Kaufman said the college takes such incidents seriously. He said the school is working with local law enforcement on the most recent threat.
 
“This is not conducive to the atmosphere that we believe is critical to learning,” Kaufman said. “We also reached out to the police and let them know about it, and filed an initial report.”

Police said Wednesday that despite the threats not presenting any immediate sense of danger, the case remains under investigation.

College officials issued a letter to the college community saying, “Hate has no place at Lewis & Clark.”
But students say racist incidents have become too common at the campus. Students, such as Hensel, are calling on administrators to help change the culture at Lewis and Clark.

“I wonder why these things keep happening,” Hensel said.

“I think it’s a result of people in their classrooms are learning the same white narratives. There’s a huge culture of apathy and complicity at Lewis & Clark, and people aren’t willing to be uncomfortable and put themselves out there, and I think that is modeled, top-down.”

College president Barry Glassner is in Washington, D.C., but officials said he’s aware of the incident, and has been consulting with other administrators.
 
The Yik Yak application has also been at the center of racist incidents at the University of Missouri.  There, the university’s response to the messages fueled outrage on campus, including protests by the Missouri football team. Ultimately, the university president resigned over the matter.

Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez sent the following message Tuesday night:

Dear Lewis & Clark Community,

As you may be aware, this afternoon there were multiple racist posts made on Yik Yak. The Bias Assessment Response Team is actively working on this highly troubling incident. The Portland Police have been informed.

We are working closely with the Black Student Union and thank those students for their leadership during these troubling times. We are working to ensure safety and to provide paths for support for all community members.

Hate has no place at Lewis & Clark. We must work together to ensure an inclusive experience for all members of our community and maintain a campus where all are free to learn in a safe and welcoming environment.

Anyone with additional information about the Yik Yak postings, or with concerns about their personal well-being, should contact Campus Safety at 503-768-7855. Students may also contact their area director, the counseling center (503-265-7804), or the Dean of Students (503-768-7110) for additional support.

President Glassner is in Washington, D.C., on college business but has been in close communication with me about this troubling incident and sends his support to and concern for our students and community.

Sincerely,
Anna Gonzalez, Dean of Students

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