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Prospect Racial Slur Was Probably a Hoax

There is now significant evidence that the Prospect House racial slur of 2011 was a hoax. But, before we go into the details, we need a nickname for the scandal. Suggestions? For now, let’s go with Prospect Must Die. Why is this a good name?

1) It combines the location of the “crime,” the 4th floor of Prospect House, with the actual graffiti: “All Niggers Must Die.”

2) It (obliquely) references the 2006 movie John Tucker Must Die. Note that “John Tucker” might be shorted to the initials JT. I almost used the scandal nickname: JT Must Die, but that seemed too inflammatory . . . for now . . .

Besides numerous prior doubts about the veracity of this “hate crime,” from people both on and off campus, we now have this radio story from David Michael ’13.
Give it a listen.


1) Wow! What an amazing story! How did Michael get so many people to talk about the story on the record, including a Williams College security officer? Bravo!

2) Are you too lazy to listen? At some point, we should create a transcript. Summary: There was a very short window during which the graffiti could have been written. A minority member of the class of 2012, very active in campus politics, was seen on the 4th floor of Prospect at the time. She had no reason to be up there. She was seen by an acquaintance. Afterwards, as security (and the police?) were investigating, she sent a text to the acquaintance which seemed designed to get him to say that she was visiting him, and hence had a reason to be on the 4th floor at that time. The security officer, citing swipe card evidence, implied that the event was a hoax. Security Chief Dave Boyer refused to be interviewed.

3) I am not sure that this summary does the tape justice, but listen for yourself.

4) Michael ’13 declines to name the minority student who he (obviously) thinks is responsible for the hoax. EphBlog knows the name from other sources. Should we publish it?

Why won’t The Record investigate this further? There is a great story to be told.

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Comments Disabled To "Prospect Racial Slur Was Probably a Hoax"

#1 Comment By frank uible On January 19, 2015 @ 9:54 am

Prudence indicates that this matter should be permitted to fade into history without further discussion or other effort.

#2 Comment By D On January 19, 2015 @ 12:35 pm

I don’t think the name of the suspected person responsible for the hoax really matters. What is more concerning is that the administration had information on the hate crime being a likely hoax and didn’t inform students. Worse still, the school built rules around this crime and hired support staff knowing this event could have been a hoax.

I don’t know how many students were damaged by this event, and I cannot believe that the school let students believe that there was a threat when there was credible information that none existed

#3 Comment By current student On January 19, 2015 @ 2:49 pm

The administration promised us updates on this investigation which never came to fruition, and there are still students who think that there may have been a racist murderer running around campus that year, students who lived in fear for a long time.

The student involved posted a confession on her facebook page, which was deleted but not before it was seen by enough people to make the name known by a number of members of the classes of 2012, 2013, 2014. I would say publish the name. This information needs to not be lost when the class of 2015 (the last one who was on campus for the crime) graduates.

#4 Comment By Z On January 19, 2015 @ 2:57 pm

I think the name absolutely matters. The administration threatened the perpetrator with serious legal consequences, and many students felt like their lives were at risk. If she’s guilty, why should she be entitled to anonymity here?

Now, if you’re willing to bite the bullet and say that the college should relax its speech restrictions across the board and not punish anyone for something they write or say (no matter how awful), then that’s something I could get behind.

#5 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On January 19, 2015 @ 3:59 pm

> I would say publish the name.

Our comments are open to all. You don’t need to wait for me to publish it.

#6 Comment By recent grad On January 20, 2015 @ 6:58 am

I don’t think you should publish the name. Most of the campus already knows her name. Despite all of this evidence, we still can’t put the pen in her hand. Yes, she hurt a lot of people, but hurting her wouldn’t solve anything. Immortalizing the perpetrator here could ruin her life even if she has completely changed as a person.

And, respecting the requests of Mr. Michael – who put this well-researched piece forward with class – I don’t think this story is about an individual. It is about a desire to make Williams College’s intellectual life into all that it should be. Why did the campus resort to immediate sloganeering and try to shut down free speech after the incident? Why was there no display of rational self-awareness or skepticism before we went on an all-campus march, cancelled classes, and made administrators express public grief over it?

The liberal arts are supposed to teach skepticism and active-mindedness, not messianic social activism. Liberal arts students should be looking for disconfirming evidence in what they believe, not running to an administrative bureaucracy to coddle them and help blame their problems on someone else.

It was a scary time in 2011. Some students thought their lives were under threat, yet the administration (and the trustees?) chose to “preserve” the college’s reputation instead of alleviating students from what they saw as a death threat. Mr. Michael’s evidence isn’t proof that this was a hoax, but it is pretty close. Yet the administration seemed convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that this incident was proof of racism. It was also a scary time for those who knew the history of the College and believed that this could have been a hoax. They could not express their (accurate) opinions without being shouted down or labeled as “racists”.

If only we could confirm other rumors here… are ANY of these “hate crimes” real? By common rumor, the incident in 2009 that led to the seizing of Hardy House (“FAGS” written in BBQ sauce on a wall) was perpetrated by a townie who had slept over with a first-year student. By common rumor, the whiteboard-writing N-word incident that led to the “Students Against Silence” march and eventually “Claiming Williams” Day was another hoax… a “practical joke” perpetrated on a woman of color by her boyfriend, who was also of color.

Perhaps problem of marginalization at Williams runs much deeper than some “bad” person – usually fictitious – harming a victimized group. Maybe marginalized groups are also held back by their own self-identification as victims, which turns their attention inward at unproductive angst over historical problems instead of outward at the remarkable opportunities in front of them. Maybe this was a case of a student inventing evidence to confirm what real-world data could not: Her deep belief that she was a “victim” despite her opportunity to study at the nation’s foremost academic institution. And maybe the administration – with its special affinity for the questionable politics of MinCo – should be taking a hard look at what it is teaching its students.

Williams would be better served if the administration focused on helping disadvantaged students prosper academically and professionally instead of teaching them that they are “victims.” And the world would be much better served if its best and brightest focused on making life better for other people – not “claiming” more reparations for themselves.

#7 Comment By Alum ’12 On January 20, 2015 @ 9:57 am

I think the above is very well put. The name of the student does not matter, there is nothing to be gained by humiliating someone when reasonable doubt still may exist. However, I believe the focus should continue to be on the administration.

The school legitimized the threat. The evidence in the Michael piece seems to indicate that a threat did not exist and the administration was aware of these facts and did not inform students. Essentially, it looks as though their claim about transparency in this case was disingenuous at best.

It also seems as though administrators interviewed in the piece seemed, in light of the evidence provided (unless there is something else we are unaware of (which could be the case)) were being misleading in the answering of questions. It looks as though some administrators may have benefited in accepting this hate crime as wholly true and never questioning their premise.

Then again, all of this is speculation, which could be off base. However, unless the administration answers these questions honestly, this sore will continue to fester.

#8 Comment By I know On January 20, 2015 @ 11:44 pm

Jessica Torres

Actions hace consequences.

#9 Comment By frank uible On January 21, 2015 @ 9:38 pm

Kilroy was here.