Update, 9 p.m., Nov. 24:
With Western officially starting Thanksgiving break Wednesday, Nov. 25, here are updates The Western Front knows about the situation that lead up to closing Western’s campus:
- There were no arrests of any perpetrators as of Tuesday evening, Nov. 24.
- Whether or not those who issued the threats are from Western or not has not been released.
- Specific posts have not been disclosed and are currently still under investigation, though the University has confirmed they were sourced from the anonymous social media website YikYak.
- What instigated these threats are still to be determined.
According to a video interview with The Bellingham Herald, President Bruce Shepard said that there were multiple posts seen on social media that were threatening the safety of students of color on campus.
President Shepard also said in the interview that the University cannot confirm if the recent talks discussing how Western students feel about the current mascot were related to the threats. He mentioned that in a blog he wrote Sunday, Nov. 22, that the mascot was not changing as of now.
“We don’t know what’s in the mind of a person who makes a vicious threat if all you see is the threat,” he said. “If there is a connection, it is simply that there are some people so scared, so frightened that they don’t even want a discussion to go on, and the University should be be afraid to discuss anything.
The Western Front will update this story as information becomes available.
Update, 8 a.m., Nov. 24:
University Communications Director Paul Cocke said that the comments followed a campus wide discussion about the university mascot, the vikings.
Western has officially cancelled all classes for Tuesday, Nov. 24 in response to observed hate speech on social media targeting Western students of color, according to an email sent by President Bruce Shepard.
It is not known at this time if the perpetrators are Western students, according to the email. A law enforcement investigation is underway, though few details have been disclosed at this time. Law enforcement officials can assure, however, that there is not a threat to general campus safety, but rather a targeted attack.
The investigation is of the highest priority for on campus law enforcement, according to the email.
Regular university operations will continue to be open and operating during this time.