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Was the 2011 “Hate Crime” a Hoax?

From the Williams Alternative last May:

It has been a little over two years since the hate-crime in Prospect house, and our student body has not been informed of the results of the investigation or been given a timeline as to when we should expect some answers.

And don’t expect that to change, unless the Record gets more serious. The College prefers to flush these incidents down the porcelain memory hole, regardless of whether or not they are real or hoaxes. If they are real, then the College hardly wants to advertise itself to prospective students (and to alumni) as a hotbed of racism. If they are hoaxes, then the College’s PC immune system starts to attack itself.

In the aftermath of the incident students were ushered into “safe-spaces”, classes were suspended, and the entire community went into shock (the less said about the social-honor code idea the better). The President, the deans, many faculty members, and fellow students rushed to the aid of those who felt themselves to be under threat. While this response was admirable, it is important to push one salient observation: no one inquired into the possibility of the entire thing being a hoax.

I will not delve into the specifics of the crime due to legal concerns, but I will state a fact: there exists a common idea among the student body that the “hate-crime” was perpetrated by a minority student with ulterior motives.

At what point during our campus discussions following the event was such a possibility entertained: that a minority student had perpetrated the act, specifically in order to bring attention to minority-issues on campus and obtain benefits for their identity-group? Given the reactions of sympathy, attention, rev-evaluation and concession we observed it must be obvious that an incentive scheme exists for unscrupulous students to mimic genuine hate-crimes for their own gain, or merely to cause trouble.

Comments:

1) EphBlog was not providing thorough campus coverage during this period. Sorry! Relevant Record articles here, here and here.

2) I have spoken with several different students over the past few years who believe that it was a hoax, one of whom claimed to know the student responsible. Is this a topic that EphBlog readers want us to pursue further? Recall it was EphBlog who unmasked Professor of Art Aida Laleian a decade ago.

3) Roger Kimball, in a somewhat overwrought column, made similar claims:

And this brings me to the second hypothesis about who was responsible for the offending graffito: namely, that it was the act of a minority student attempting to drum up campus hysteria and to produce a climate in which minority groups could press for more concessions from the College.

Over the past few days, I’ve heard from several campus sources that the culprit is known to students and is in fact a minority student. One source said it was “common knowledge” who the person was. Maybe so. Still, it is not officially recognized common knowledge. The Williamstown police said no arrest had been made. A Williams College administrator told me that he was “100 percent certain” that the culprit had not been discovered, despite the tireless efforts of campus security, the Williamstown police, and the FBI.

“One hundred percent certain” is pretty impressive. It’s nice to know that certitude is alive and well in Williamstown, Mass. It will be interesting to see how long it survives. In the meantime, here are a few questions: why did President Adam Falk and the Williams administration go directly to panic mode over this incident? Didn’t they drastically overreact? Why involve the police, for heaven’s sake, to say nothing of the FBI (who should be off dealing with serious crimes, not an offensive graffito scrawled on a dormitory wall)?

4) Many (most?) of these incidents at elite colleges are, in fact, hoaxes.

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#1 Comment By frank uible On November 13, 2014 @ 7:34 am

David: What did Wolfe have to say about returning home? To mix metaphors, it is impossible to recapture the magic of one’s salad days.