Western Washington University, where classes were canceled on Tuesday November 24, 2015, due to threatening hate speech against people of color. Posted on a social media platform, it was strong enough to make authorities fear for students' safety.

Western Washington University Cancels Classes After Hate Speech Targets People of Color


Western Washington University canceled its last day of classes before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend on Tuesday November 23 after threatening “hate speech” against people of color, including American Indians, surfaced on an anonymous social media platform.

“Yesterday, we observed social media being used for hate speech targeted at Western students of color,” said Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard in a statement. “I need to be VERY clear here: We are not talking the merely insulting, rude, offensive commentary that trolls and various other lowlifes seem free to spew, willy-nilly, although there has been plenty of that, too. No, this was hate speech.”

While he did not go so far as to call the words outright threats, he did say that upon reading the social media posts, school officials “immediately involved” authorities, prompting “an ongoing law enforcement investigation” that he called “the highest priority of our campus law enforcement colleagues.”

The cancelation was later expanded to all Western Washington campuses.

The threats appeared last weekend on a social media platform known as Yik Yak whose members post anonymously, the Associated Press reported. Native Americans were named in the posts, as were blacks, Muslims, Jews, AP said.

Several hundred Native students attend the university, with 433 enrolled as of last fall, according to the school’s website. The school is in Bellingham, Washington, about 90 miles north of Seattle.

“There are any number of statements out there that are disturbing and very threatening,” Shepard told the Seattle Times of the Yik Yak posts, which he learned about from employees. “We do not know what was in the mind of that person, of course; that is one reason we are investigating it. So, who was that person’s target? We can’t say until we locate that person and interrogate them.”

The hateful comments, which university authorities did not detail, came against the backdrop of a discussion over whether to change the school’s mascot, which is depicted by a Viking. 

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