Online threats heighten tensions at University of Missouri
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – The University of Missouri said it is has increased security and is investigating online threats, an announcement that again heightened tensions on the campus after days of turmoil.
A post Tuesday night on the college’s website said campus police were “aware of social media threats” and were investigating. The university’s statement didn’t offer further detail, but it came after at least two users posted threats on the anonymous location-based messaging app Yik Yak.
One user threatened to “shoot every black person I see.”
Another said: “Some of you are alright. Don’t go to campus tomorrow.” The message seemed to echo one that appeared on the website 4chan – a forum where racist and misogynistic comments are frequent – ahead of the deadly campus shooting at an Oregon community college last month.
The posts were widely disseminated across the Internet and local media.
Campus police Capt. Brian Weimer told The Associated Press additional officers were already on campus before the university learned of the threats. University police were working with other state and local agencies to ensure the campus was secure, he said.
A university spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached for further comment, but the school’s online emergency information center tweeted, “There is no immediate threat to campus,” and asked that student not spread rumors.
The development was the latest in a tumultuous week for the flagship campus of the University of Missouri system.
The student government president’s accounts of having racial slurs shouted at him from a passing pickup truck helped spark a weekslong protest movement. A graduate student’s hunger strike then led to a two-day walkout by more than 30 members of the Missouri football team. Those developments came to a head Monday with the resignation of university system President Tim Wolfe, who had become the target of many of the protests. Hours later, the top administrator of the Columbia campus, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, was forced out.
A plaza that had been the site of a sit-in by protesters was entirely empty Tuesday night and only a handful of students were seen walking around campus. Police officers from the campus department and city of Columbia were on patrol.
David Wallace, a spokesman for the student government group Missouri Students Association, said the group asked university officials to cancel classes Wednesday in light of the threats.
Gaby Rodriguez, a senior, said she was at work when she heard about the threats.
“It’s really disheartening and proves the point of why these protests and boycotts were necessary,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt this unsafe at Mizzou,” she said, referring to the college by its nickname.
Some students, faculty and alumni have said the protests and top leaders’ resignations are the culmination of years of racial tension.
Among other recent events, members of the Legions of Black Collegians, whose founders include a recently retired deputy chancellor, said slurs were hurled at them by an apparently drunken white student while practicing for a homecoming performance.
The university has promised changes.
Chuck Henson, a black law professor and associate dean, was appointed Tuesday as the university’s first-ever interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity.
The university system’s governing body, the Board of Curators, also announced a number of other initiatives, including more support for the hiring and retention of diverse faculty and staff and a full review of all policies related to staff and student conduct.