Racist Note That Sparked St. Olaf College Protests Was a Hoax

St. Olaf College students fill Tomson Hall to boycott classes and demand action and dialogue after numerous acts of incidents of racial hate on campus, Monday, May 1, 2017 in Northfield, Minn. Hundreds of students boycotted classes at St. Olaf College on Monday, instead packing an administration building to protest a rash of racist and threatening messages left around campus. (Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP)

St. Olaf College in Minnesota erupted in protests recently after a threatening note was reportedly found on a windshield. A picture of the note was posted on Facebook on a Saturday, and by the following Monday the outrage caused the campus to effectively shut down for the day.


The campus has since been informed that the note, like so many similar incidents recently, was a hoax:

President David Anderson said in an email to students that an investigation into the note identified a person of interest “who confessed to writing the note.”

“We’ve confirmed that this was not a genuine threat. We’re confident that there is no ongoing threat from this incident to individuals or the community as a whole,” he said.

In a second campuswide email sent later Wednesday, Anderson used stronger words to explain what happened: “The reason I said in my earlier note that this was not a genuine threat is that we learned from the author’s confession that the note was fabricated. It was apparently a strategy to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate.”

Around the same time Anderson made the announcement Wednesday, the black female student who initially told everyone she found the note on her car that used the n-word and threatened her announced on social media “I will be saying it was a hoax.”

The post has since been deleted.

Samantha Wells — the student who reported the note, and presumably the culprit — appears to not have foreseen the damage she’s done.


There is still racism and bigotry in this country — see the Harvard students holding a blacks-only commencement. But every time we see one of these “hate crimes” turn out to be a hoax, and they all seem to be hoaxes these days, it’s the boy who cried wolf. Wells and others who have reportedly initiated hoaxes completely fail America in our continuing fight against racism and bigotry.

Americans now think “hoax” first when they hear about a new incident. While law enforcement will continue to investigate these claims, the public won’t take them seriously. Hoaxes meant to call attention to what the hoaxers see as a greater problem always backfire.

Racism in America has been largely eradicated. Hoaxers aren’t fighting off the remnants of racism, they are simply belittling the actual victims of threats and crime.


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