Table of Contents
On The Campus
The college and university campus, because of its young and imaginative population, and also because of the immense pressure for "political correctness," is a hotbed of sensitivity and awareness of ethnicity and race. It is not surprising that a large number of hoaxes and pranks occur there, including some of the more imaginative cases. It’s also on the campus that most of the unreported hoaxes occur, i.e., they are discovered to be hoaxes early enough that they simply are never reported in the campus or community press. Cases Quentin E. Banks, a black student at Northwest Missouri University in Maryville, reported a "racially motivated" assault and death threats against himself to university officials in October 1988. Following extensive media attention, rumors of a Ku Klux Klavern among NMU students emerged and the campus shifted into a crisis atmosphere. Even the President of NMU, Dean Hubbard, bought the story, saying: "We believe the klavern is made up of about five students, who are distributing the leaflets and letters on the students’ cars and under their doors. The U. S. Marshall’s office and the FBI have told us that this is a violation of the students’ civil rights. We’ll catch one of ’em these days at it." 1 At a campus rally some two hundred students, faculty and administrators protested that racism, instigated by the Ku Klux Klan, did not belong on the campus or in Maryville, and that it would not be tolerated. In fact, there was no Klavern at NMU, although as many as 15 black students had reported finding Ku Klux Klan fliers on windshields and dormitory doors. James A. Moran, "Grand Dragon" of a two-man KKK "Klavern" in nearby Kansas City, took advantage of the publicity and announced that "We’ll grow and prosper off their paranoia" with plans to exploit the situation. Newspaper accounts portrayed the campus as a hotbed of racism as the situation gained the national spotlight. The case unraveled a month later when the principal "victim" came clean and confessed to having fabricated the entire story. On the strength of the original complaint by Banks, 18, the university had summoned assistance from the F.B.I. and a special unit of the Justice Department. Later, when President Hubbard began noticing inconsistencies in Banks’ account of the alleged incidents, he summoned a special investigator from the Missouri Highway Patrol. During the course of an interrogation by Sgt. Larry R. Stobbs of the patrol, Banks broke down and confessed to his hoax. During the several-week period when Banks’ story had been believed, he had been a campus hero, talked about and admired for his "victimization." 1 School officials encouraged Banks to address freshman classes on his alleged experiences. According to Hubbard, the student became "the center of much attention" following the incidents. 1 Banks was subsequently suspended from school for two years. He claims that all he did was "devise a really big calculated plan to test university policy" on non-discrimination. At the University of Kansas at Lawrence, students awoke one January 1992 morning to find fliers from a purported "Conservative Christian Crusade" posted throughout the campus. The fliers contained neo-Nazi icons, a border resembling a series of swastikas, a flaming sword, and three imperial eagles at the bottom. The content of the flyer was calculated to provoke the radical anti-racist and multicultural forces on the campus. It stated, in part "Aren’t you tired of minority special interest groups being given preferential treatment on this campus." "As the radical minority pressure groups indulge in historical revisionism, it is our duty to oppose the orgy of whitemale bashing threatening to destroy the academic structure of our university." "Join your Brothers on Friday, January 17 on Nescoe Beach at Noon to show the administration and the community of cultural extortionists the power of our voices. We must be heard!" When the appointed date came the area was filled with 200 "anti-racist," feminist, gay rights and multicultural counter demonstrators, all expressing their indignation over the message on the flyer. Led by Ann Neick, chairwoman of the Lawrence Alliance and Dean of the Social Welfare department at the University, the group was apparently disappointed that no one from the Conservative Christian Crusade had decided to appear. Nevertheless, a good consciousness-raising time was had by all, including speeches condemning racism, sexism, homophobia, and so on. In point of fact, there was no such group as the Conservative Christian Crusade. A hunt on and off the campus failed to turn up a single member, or even anyone who said they had heard of the organization prior to the fliers. The KU Department of Religious Studies was not familiar with the group. Campus police checked all local print shops and failed to find any who had printed the fliers. KU police Lt. John Mullens said, "As far as we know, there is no organization whatsoever by that name." He also said he thought the flyer was a hoax. This writer contacted the few bona fide right-wing students on the campus and none of them had heard of the group, although they acknowledged they would like to. "Laird Wilcox, former KU student and founder of the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political movements...said that the flyer was obviously designed to stigmatize the ideas associated with and arouse anger and hatred toward them. ’The quasi-swastika, the burning sword, [and] the imperial eagles are not particularly subtle attempts to evoke Nazi connotations, both on a conscious and subconscious basis,’ he said. ’The terms ’conservative’ and ’Christian,’ as well as the reference to skin color and sex, white-male bashing and ’brothers’ name the groups intended to be stigmatized.’ ’The reference to the ’academic structure of our University’ completes the suggestion of linkage between the interests of ’conservative Christians,’ ’white males,’ Nazi images actually a rather clever creation. Wilcox also said that any thinking ’conservative Christian’ or ’white male’ activist would realize that the flyer would create a negative response and would be entirely counterproductive. l ’Ask yourself who actually benefitted from this incident? It certainly wasn’t any ’conservative Christians’ or ’white males,’ who wound up being portrayed as Nazi sympathizers and racists.’ A year-and-a-half after the incident an ongoing investigation had failed to turn up any trace of the group, Conservative Christian Crusade. Black students at Williams College in Massachusetts were horrified in February 1993 to find three racial slurs written on notebook paper posted on the door of the Black Student Union building. The event took place five days before the start of Black History Month. The campus convulsed with social consciousness spasms and indignant speeches condemning racism. 7.7 percent of the students at Williams are black. The notes posted on Rice House had said "Die Niggers", 5 "Go home niggers," and "Niggers are worth less than dirt under this house." The Black Student Union covered the campus with posters deploring the act and challenging students to examine themselves for racist attitudes. Shortly afterwards, Dean Joan Edwards informed the campus, without specifying the student’s race, that a student had confessed to the act. Although rumors spread on the campus, it was fully 10 days before the Williams Record, the campus newspaper, reported that Gilbert Moore, a black student, had been suspended. Interestingly, even though Moore had informed the Black Student Union of his acts when he confessed to university authorities, the BSU continue to exploit the incident as a bona fide case of white racism until the student newspaper reported otherwise. The newspaper Bad criticized the BSU for perpetrating "an implicit lie" through silence. In February 1993 Lewis Williams, 19, a black sophomore and resident dormitory assistant at Slippery Rock University near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, returned to his room to find a racial epithet -- "Head Nigger" -- scrawled on his door with a black marker. Two other black students, James Kenney and Darryle Carpenter, also found the word "Nigger" on the door of the room they share in the same building. When Williams reported the incidents, he opined that the slurs were related to Black History Month, currently being observed on the campus. The incident reminded students of an off-campus cross-burning three years before, in which two white students were expelled and charged with ethnic intimidation and harassment. As might be expected, the campus was electrified. Williams, a member of the Black Action Society, was quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as saying that "Racism is not something you’re born with. It’s something you’re taught." 1 Students didn’t have to wait long for the culprit to come clean. It was Williams himself, who confessed to both incidents before campus police. Police filed criminal mischief (a summary offense) and ethnic intimidation charges (a misdemeanor) against Williams -- neither of which was likely to involve jail time. An attempted racist frame-up occurred at Ohio Dominican College in Columbus, in December 1988 when white student Michael A. Smith, 22, found himself under arrest for sending threatening letters to 13 black students and faculty members. The threats were worded in the same way as was a section of a term paper on prejudice he had submitted to Janice D. Hamlet, a black teacher at the school.i Hamlet had pointed out the similarities in the documents which immediately implicated Smith. The letters stated: "Death to All Niggers and Dumb Puerto Ricans." 1 However, two Columbus police detectives who had taken a class from Hamlet took an interest in the case. Hamlet had been outraged by Smith’s use of the word "nigger" in his term paper and had tried unsuccessfully to get him expelled. Forensic examination of the envelopes the threatening letters had been mailed in turned up Hamlet’s fingerprints and an examination of her typewriter determined that the letters had been written on it. In fact, she had copied part of Smith’s essay and mailed it to the 13 blacks and then "discovered" that they were worded in the same manner. Ethnic intimidation charges against Smith were dropped and Hamlet was charged with two felony counts of ethnic intimidation and two misdemeanor accounts of aggravated menacing. The unequal treatment of Smith and Hamlet raised considerable controversy on the campus. Smith was immediately suspended without a hearing after being accused of sending the fliers, while University officials appointed a "fact-finding committee" to investigate the charges against Hamlet. Also, Smith was arrested at the school and hauled off in handcuffs to a patrol car. One would think that such a damaging fabrication would have ended Hamlet’s career. At last report, however, she had returned to Kent State University to complete a phd. Michael Smith subsequently filed suit against the University for $6 million and was awarded an undisclosed amount in 1990. In Atlanta, Georgia, a black freshman at Emory University claimed she had been the victim of racist attacks in her school dorm in April 1990. She had discovered the phrases "Hang Nigger" and "Die, Nigger, Die" written under a rug in her closet, as well as scrawled on her tampons in a drawer. Sabrina Collins, 18, also claimed to have received two letters threatening to lynch her. In addition, bleach was poured on some of her clothes and stuffed animals, and the phrase "nigger, hang" was written on the wall of her closet. Despite an alarm that police installed in Collin’s room, the incidents continued. Police eventually determined that a threatening letter had a grammatical error the "victim" commonly made, that it was typed on the sort of typewriter found at her place of employment, and it had no fingerprints on it but hers. In the meantime, Collins was hospitalized and became mute. Two weeks later she was released after having recovered her speech. The incident triggered a march by 700 students and a sit-in in front of the administration demanding a "crackdown on campus racism." Black leaders in Atlanta got into the act, perpetuating demands against hate crimes. Although it was speculated virtually from the start that Collins might be responsible for the events, considerations of "sensitivity" kept a lid on this aspect of the case for several months. Finally, police reports were leaked that confirmed suspicions. DeKalb County prosecutor Ralph Bowden announced that he will not pursue charges against Collins l6. He said that Collins needs "counseling and treatment, not prosecution." The Collins case is interesting in a number of respects. Otis Smith of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, perhaps without realizing it, admitted the utility of hoaxes in the following statement, "It doesn’t matter to me whether she did it or not, because of all the pressure these black students are under at these predominantly white schools. If this will highlight it, if it will bring it to the attention of the public, I have no problem with that." According to Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz, "Miss Collins first submitted her reports of racial harassment shortly after she was formally accused of cheating on a chemistry test." Dershowitz noted that the "ends justifies the means when it comes to racism" mentality will inevitably lead to false accusations being directed at innocent people." A widely publicized case of anti-Semitic graffiti bears special attention because of the manner in which it was handled, although the suspected perpetrator was eventually acquitted of the charges. Students at the State University of New York in Binghamton were shocked to find anti-Semitic slogans spray-painted inside the door of the Jewish Student Union office in November 1988. The slogans, "Kill Kikes" and "Zionazi Racists", were sprayed the day after the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, when Nazis terrorized Jews in 1938 Germany. Authorities investigating the incident soon zeroed in on a suspect He was James Oppenheim, former President of the Jewish Student Union. According to the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation in Washington, Jewish students represent fifty percent of the school’s enrollment, one of the highest ratios at any public university in the nation. SUNY-Binghamton’s president, Raymond E. Dye, responded to the accusation with the statement that Oppenheim "is entitled to full participation in all aspects of university life" and that "this should not be an occasion for prejudging a person or a group." In September 1989, Oppenheim, 20, was arrested by state police and charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief and third-degree false reporting of a crime. These relatively minor misdemeanor offenses rarely result in jail time upon conviction. The manner in which this case was handled is a fascinating study. State Police investigator Charles Gould, responsible for filing the charges, said of Oppenheim, "He’s not a bad kid!" The Binghampton Press & Sun Bulletin quoted police investigators as saying "Oppenheim was trying to broaden recognition of anti-Semitism following a mediocre showing at a memorial to the victims of the Nazi Kristallnacht program." Student Association President Craig Spiegel read a statement that warned against judging Oppenheim before due process takes its course, and reminding students that "anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of oppression existed on our campus." Three weeks later Oppenheim was elected to the Harpur College Council. Harpur is the liberal arts college at SUNY Binghamton. Rabbi Arnold Fertig described Oppenheim as an "emotional, highly-committed young man devoted to Jewish causes on the campus." In addition to being portrayed as sincere if misguided, Oppenheim had another advantage. His father was an attorney and knew that the evidence against his son could be challenged. Aside from non-specified circumstantial evidence, the in his desk at the Jewish Student Center. This would seem incriminating enough, but the case was made that Oppenheim had just picked up the can and hid it so it wouldn’t get lost. The Judge accepted his account and in December 1989, James Oppenheim was acquitted of all charges. In fairness, the decision for acquittal should be respected. At the time of this writing no one else had been apprehended and there were no other suspects. The Dartmouth Review, a politically conservative student weekly newspaper, had been a thorn in the side of high-ranking administrators, some professors, and campus leftists at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire for ten years. Its editors have been harassed and vilified for their values, opinions and beliefs, and their more extreme critics have gone so far as to accuse them of racism and anti-Semitism. These critics had their fondest dreams fulfilled when a copy of the Review appeared on the eve of Yom Kippur on October 3, 1990 with their usual credo, a quotation from former U. S. President Theodore Roosevelt, replaced with a quotation from no less than Adolf Hitler himself. "I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting s for the Lord’s work." 26 Interestingly, like many conservative campus publications, the Review has been exceedingly strong in its support of Israel against the Palestinians, but that bought them no protection from from false charges of antiSemitism. The substitution was immediately recognized as sabotage. Review editors and staff quickly apologized, even taking out ads in the campus newspaper, and began searching for the culprit. Amazingly, Dartmouth University President James Freedman, along with numerous leftist student groups and off-campus journalists, persisted in treating the quotation as if it actually represented the policies of the paper and was the collective responsibility of everybody who wrote for it. "Appalling bigotry of this kind has no place at the college or in this country," Freedman said. Review editor-in-chief Kevin Prichett, who is black and rather sensitive to racism, was not amused. "Our knowledge is that it was an inside job" by one or more staff members," he said. Freedman’s tirade against the Review was so vituperative that former U. S. Treasury Secretary William E. Simon responded in an essay in the ï¬ ew York Times to the effect that, "[Freedman] led the campus in a nationally-publicized rally against hate that quickly metamorphosed into an instrument of hate -- hate directed against student journalists who, as a result, suffered death-warnings, threats of violence, as well as mean-spirited accusations." As a result of the furor, and as a result of complaints about the Review’s editorial content from "anti-racist" groups, Barry Palmer, chairman of New Hampshire’s Human Rights Commission, undertook a review of two year’s back copies of the paper. Said Palmer: "I read every single thing they wrote about teachers. I reviewed editorials and editorial cartoons. And I didn’t find any hint of bigotry or prejudice. After reviewing two. years of the publication, I began wondering what all the fuss was about." Although no one was ever charged in the hoax, suspicion boiled down to a couple of staff members who have since left the paper. Pedro House, Jr., of Cranford, New Jersey, was caught in the act of painting a series of racist and anti-Semitic slurs on a restroom wall inside a building on Union County College’s Cranford campus in December 1989. House, who is black, is a postal employee in South Orange, New Jersey, and a part time student at the college. Cranford Police Captain Harry Wilde said that offensive graffiti was found in the same restroom on eight different days within the past two months. The graffiti had become an issue around which anti-racist groups had rallied on the campus. Police also seized materials allegedly used to mark the drawings and epithets, which included3Bwastikas and quotations about white power, Adolf Hitler, Jews and blacks. House had been active in anti-racist movements. 44 John Grace, a black freshman at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, had been at school less than a week in September 1983, before he got the first racist note taped to his window. The next day he got a second note, which said "Die Nigger." Blacks on the campus rallied to his side. Erica Honnacott, dean of students, began her investigation to uncover the horrible racist who had victimized Grace. She didn’t have to look far. "We conducted a vast handwriting check and it was pretty clear it was his handwriting. He was confronted with it and admitted he had done it." In addition to the fake notes, Grace had also broken a window. The school however did not press charges. Ms. Wonnacott said, "He’s obviously a young man with a lot of problems." Berkeley, California, police reported that there had been four attacks on white students by black students at Berkeley High School following the appearance of a racist leaflet on the campus in December 1991. The leaflet thanked blacks for killing one another in gang violence, among other things, and mimicked the stereotype of a white supremacist production. Two days later police had located the flyer’s author. He was black journalist Matthew Stelly, a reporter for the black weekly Milwaukee Courier. The flyer claimed to originate from the Ku Klux Klan. Handed out to students at a Berkeley public transportation station, the leaflet brought an almost immediate reaction. According to Oakland Tribune reporter Robert Hollis, "That morning, seven or eight black teenagers, who school officials said were angry over the leaflet, attacked a number of white students, four of whom were injured. Police arrested one 15-year-old sophomore after he was identified as one of the assailants." Stelly is quoted as saying he wrote the flyer as a "reverse psychological+ cal ploy to try to get these people (gang members) to stop this madness." Planned carefully, the risk of discovery of a racial hoax is minimal. However, even when a hoax is discovered it may still serve its intended purpose. An example of this occurred at Pennsylvania State University at State College when "an unidentified man" placed six help-wanted ads in the student newspaper asking for "colored nannies" in January 1979. The expected (and intended) outrage resulted in several demands upon the administration: gag "About 75 students met with Provost Edward D. Eddy and demanded that the school increase the number of black students, professors and programs and provide more financial aid for blacks. The newspaper printed an apology in its help-wanted columns, but editor David Skidmore said a second apology would not be run He said the incident was being used to bring attention to a host of complaints by local black organizations." The six phoney ads had been accepted by a junior staff member and were not approved by the newspaper’s senior staff. The hoax was discovered after a search for the man who placed the ads. It was learned that the ads originally appeared in a South African newspaper and that they were placed in opposition t0 South Africa’s racial policies. Two break-ins at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland, resulted in an incredible $650,000 in damages in February, 1990. Included in this figure was damage to the library, computers, storage and administration offices. In addition, gas jets were opened in the chemistry laboratory filling the school with natural gas, threatening an explosion. According to news s reports: "The culprits, in an effort to implicate white-supremacist ’skinheads,’ drew swastikas on the walls and books and left threatening, anti-Semitic messages signed by "Nazi Youth." Investigators soon found those responsible when two students reported another student’s account of the destruction.I Arrested were Jason Wesley Knight, 19, who is black, and Stephen Lawrence Bonner, 18, who is Jewish. Bonner reportedly said that Knight wanted to destroy the school, and Knight’s attorney, Myra P. Kovach, said Mr. Bonner took the lead. The incident, as intended, was originally reported as a hate crime. At San Bernardino Valley College a campus officer brought Ku Klux Klan fliers to work in order to make others aware that such literature was being circulated. The fliers were left on a table so other officers could familiarize themselves with them. However, when Arthur Johnson, 37, a black campus security officer, found one of the fliers in his campus mailbox in January 1992, he charged that fellow officers had placed it there as a form of harassment.’ Later, he confessed to placing the fliers in his mailbox himself. News reports noted that "Johnson’s accusations ..prompted an FBI investigation and sparked complaints about alleged racism." "Reached at home by phone, Johnson declined to say much. ’I want to make all the right moves,’ said Johnson, a five-year veteran of the campus police force. ’Let me see what their hand is going to be. You know I’m no fool or anything. You know I had a reason.’" Chancellor Stuart Bundy commented that the affair had taken a serious toll on the college. "That department has been totally demoralized, the board of trustees has been charged as racist," he said. 40 1 Clifford Cain, "NWHSU Battles Campus Racism," Daily Forum, 31 October 1988. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid. 4 Robert Manor, "Student Says He Lied About Racist Threats," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 7 December 1988. 5 Fred Hares, "Student Admits He Lied About Threats," Kansas City Times, 6 December 1988. 6 Flyer 7 John Noltensmeyer, "Expert Doubts Existence of Hate Group," The Oread Review (April 1992). 8 Ibid. 9 "Black Student Posted Racist Notes," Chronicle of Higher Education (24 February 1993). 10 "A Test Of Racism Produces An Uproar," New York Times (17 February 1993). ll Marilyn Pitts, "Slippery Rock Ousts Slur Writer." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (26 February 1993). 12 Michael J. Berens, "Detectives in Class Started Hail Probe," Columbus Dispatch (21 December 1988). l3 Michael J. Berens, "Hate-Mail Case Sends Teacher to Court Today." Columbus Dispatch (20 December 1988). 14 Sonya Ross, "Officials Think Student Fabricated Racist Threats," Associated Press (2 February 1990). 15 "Campus Racism: Seeking The Real Victim," Newsweek (21 May 1990). 16 "DeKalb Won’t Prosecute In Emory Case," Associated BIQSS (26 June 1990). 17 Alan Dershowitz, Racial Hoax With A Sour Echo," (26 June 1990). 18 Ibid. 19James Feron, "Jewish Student Accused of Faking Anti-Semitism," New York Times (15 September 1989). 20 Ibid. 21 Marilyn Sall, "Student Leader Charged With Vandalism," Jewish Week (29 September 1989). 22 Steven N. Levine, "Police: Accused Vandal Meant No Harm." Press and Sun-Bulletin (15 September 1989). 23 Ibid. 24 Marilyn Sall, "Antisemitic Graffiti ’daubed by a Jew.’" Jewish Chronicle (29 September 1989). 25 Naomi Godfrey, "Jewish Student Acquitted of Vandalism. Jewish Week (22 December 1989). 26 Fox Butterfield, "Quote From ’Mein Kampf’ Ignites Furor At Dartmouth." New York Times (2 October 1990). 27 Ibid. 28 William E. Simon, "Demagoguery At Dartmouth," Campus (Winter 1991). 29 "Review of Dartmouth Finds No Discrimination," Associated Press (1 January 1991). 30 Robert E. Hisseck, "Roselle Han Is Accused of Racist Graffiti," Newark Star-Ledger (13 December 1989). 31 Associated Press, "Student Says Racial ’Harassment’ Hoax," Colorado Springs Sun (1 October 1983). 32 Ibid. 33 "Interracial Attacks At Berkeley High," San Jose Mercury News (20 December 1991). 34 "Black Journalist Says He Wrote Racist Flyer," San Francisco Examiner (22 December 1991). 35 Robert Hollis, "Identity Revealed of Author of Racially Inflammatory Flier," Oakland Tribune (21 December 1991). 36 Ibid. 37 United Press International, "Fake Ads Anger Blacks," Reading Eagle (29 January 1979). 38 Arlo Wagner, "19-year-old Pleads Guilty to Trashing Rockville School," Washington Times (2 October 1990). 39 Theresa Walker, "Black Campus Officer Admits Planting Racist Fliers," The San Bernardino County Sun (27 March 1992).