A student rides a bicycle on the campus of Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
by Andrew Welsh-Huggins
AP Legal Affairs Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A student who took credit for anti-Islam fliers and racist cards posted at Oberlin College earlier this year called them a joke meant to get an “overreaction,” according to the student’s statements to campus security at the historically liberal Ohio college.
The student also took credit for a large Nazi flag, which he also said he meant as a joke, and said he posted the head of Oberlin’s president onto a picture of Adolf Hitler, according to the statements contained in an Oberlin city police report.
The student, detained after allegedly being seen posting anti-Islam fliers in the college’s Science Center Feb. 27, denied involvement in other, earlier racist postings and said he was trying to show people had overreacted to them.
The student, whose name was blacked out, said the people who put up earlier fliers were just looking for attention.
“I put out these fliers to get a similar over-reaction to prove this point,” the student said.
A series of postings and incidents over the winter caused an uproar at Oberlin, enrollment 2,900, one of the nation’s first universities to admit Blacks.
A police report detailed the defacement of Black History Month posters with the N-word, a “Whites only” sign written above a water fountain, a swastika drawn on a science center window and a student knocked to the ground by a person making a derogatory comment about ethnicity.
In early March, classes were canceled after a report of someone wearing what looked like a Ku Klux Klan-type hooded robe on campus.
A second student detained at the Science Center on Feb. 27 denied an accusation he helped make a swastika banner placed in the center and also denied he knew what his friend was up to, saying he was just tagging along, according to his statement.
The two students were investigated for the incidents but not prosecuted and the investigation has been suspended, Oberlin police Lt. Mike McCloskey told The Associated Press Friday.
The students are going through Oberlin’s college judicial system, spokesman Scott Wargo said.
Labeling the fliers or cards a joke doesn’t take away from their impact on the people affected by them, he said.
“You had fliers with threats of violence and hate speech and rape that are being posted on doors and in hallways and on mailboxes,” Wargo said, adding: “It didn’t make it less real for those who had to endure it firsthand, and creating an atmosphere where people are afraid and feel threatened — it isn’t a joke.”
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.