Students and administrators said they received threatening calls and emails from internet trolls — people who personally attack individuals after finding their information posted online — after Kenyon media outlets’ coverage of the Whiteness Group and The Good Samaritan were picked up by right-wing media sites.
Juniper Cruz ’19, the founder of the Whiteness Group said she received phone calls from two people who threatened to rape and kill her. She said she was not sure how they obtained her number, but she said the phone calls have become less frequent over the past two weeks.
“The comments were very much describing in very vivid detail both my rape and my murder,” Cruz said. “Just these very violent sexual assault-y comments.”
These calls and emails come after outlets including Fox News and The Weekly Standard published articles about the nature of The Good Samaritan’s cancellation. Several of these articles were misleading, for example making claims that the College canceled the play, when it was actually the playwright who did so. The articles also drew a connection between the canceled play and the formation of the Whiteness Group, suggesting that it illustrated College censorship of white people.
Both Cruz and Priest-in-Charge of the Harcourt Parish and Chaplain Rachel Kessler ’04 received personal attacks after Thomas D. Williams, a writer for Breitbart News, linked to websites with their contact information in his article “‘Whiteness Group’ at Liberal Arts College Bars Whites from Asking Blacks Questions.”
“You’re operating a cult. This cult of white guilt is not good for people,” one person wrote on Kessler’s Facebook page. “The way you entryists behave can only lead me to conclude that you hate Christianity and want to destroy it from the inside.” Kessler has since deleted the comment.
Cruz said she worked with Campus Safety and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) to make sure that she was safe. She sent information about the phone calls to those offices.
Emily Birnbaum ’18, the Collegian’s news editor, received vicious comments from internet trolls on Twitter after Evan McLaren ’08, director of the white nationalist organization associated with Richard Spencer, retweeted her thread about partisan right-wing coverage of her story. One account posted a picture of an Aryan cartoon character unmasking a stereotypically Jewish man, an apparent reference to Birnbaum’s Jewish faith. Others tweeted that she was a “sand merchant,” and asked her why “Jews want to genocide white people.”
Director of Campus Safety Robert Hooper said that officers have increased their daily rounds in order to ensure student safety. “We’re trying to have a higher sense of visibility. Trying to fit the calls in, but still have that level of diligence,” Hooper said.
Meredith Bonham ’92, vice president for student affairs, said that multiple administrative offices continually received threatening phone calls from a blocked caller ID shortly after publication of the articles. Bonham said Safety forwarded this number to KCSO, and the Sheriff’s office contacted the individual and told them to desist.
President Sean Decatur said that students and administrators have been turning over emails to Campus Safety and alerting them to the phone calls. Decatur said that the College also received angry phone calls from alumni and parents about the articles. So far, he said, Campus Safety is analyzing the communications they’ve received.
“Things have come in ranging from ‘We’re going to tear down your racist campus brick by brick,’ to ‘We know where you are, we’re going to destroy you,’” Decatur said. “And we’ve certainly been logging all the calls and messages that are threatening on to Safety.”
Kessler said she was uncomfortable that Breitbart linked to her staff contact page in their article, but she was not too worried about the comments she has been receiving.
“Personally I’m not overly concerned about angry people shouting on the internet,” Kessler said. “But obviously you’re mindful that we live in a pretty tumultuous and dangerous time.”
Hooper said that the phone calls concerned him right away.
“In today’s age, it only takes one person to think that ‘Well, I’m coming to Kenyon,’” Hooper said, referring to the possibility of someone physically harming students. “[Safety Officers] try to enhance our visibility, not only in residence halls, but in our academic [buildings], especially in the day when academics are open. Looking for anything that looks out of place.”