“Your fear is understandable”: Threats and strife leave Beloit on edge
A series of harassing acts and violent threats have left members of the Beloit campus feeling uneasy as friction has erupted throughout the student body.
In the early evening of Tuesday, Nov. 15, Director of Security Bruce Heine sent an email to students in regards to a violent threat posted on Facebook by the parent of a Beloit College student.
The parent wrote on Sunday, Nov. 13 that his son’s college “was having a little protest over the Trump election, nothing bad or outrageous just your typical whiny crying millennials,” referencing a solidarity march held on Friday, Nov. 11.
Later in the post, the parent wrote, “After hearing this I call him and ask him if he needed me to throw some gear in the car and bring some toys from my locker and stay with him.”
In another post on Nov. 11, the parent posted a photo of a car caked in blood with the caption “What protesters?”
Heine wrote in his email that these posts had been turned over to the Beloit police, who then made contact with the author of the posts.
“The individual told the police officer they have no intention of harming anyone in our community,” wrote Heine. “The police officer reported that he believes the perpetrator is not a threat to anyone at Beloit College. Even still, we continue to monitor the situation and will take additional action to better ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff.”
In a follow-up email on Wednesday, Nov. 16, Heine addressed the student outrage, writing that “your fear is understandable.”
He wrote that the Beloit administration and Beloit Police Chief David Zibolski had been in direct contact, as the Beloit Police Department “followed their protocols to the fullest extent in responding to this threat,” and continue to monitor the situation.
Heine also added that the parent “has been ordered to stay off campus and has agreed to stay away. If this order is violated, the person will be arrested for trespassing.”
Furthermore, the parent offered an apology to the Beloit College community:
“Recently I made some Facebook page posts which were completely misunderstood,” the parent wrote. “For this I would like to apologize. Being in the military sometimes our humor can be a little out there and can be misunderstood by people from outside our circles. I would also like to add that my posts were not to be considered a threat or an act of violence against anyone. So for the record I want it to be known that under no circumstances am I a threat or a danger to anyone on that campus.
“Also please do not judge [my child] for a father’s stupidity,” he concluded.
But by the time of Heine’s second email, the campus was already up in arms and venting their collective frustration through the Beloit College Student Group on Facebook — ultimately the location for much of the week’s strife.
Alyssa Mazer’18 posted an open letter for the administration that addressed the student body’s frustration toward a perceived lack of action.
“A threat of bodily harm is never a joke,” wrote Mazer. “The gory nature of the Facebook post is not a joke. A threat from anyone to our campus deserves to be taken seriously. Beloit College is responsible for the lives of thousands of students, faculty, and staff, and for the administration to excuse a violent threat by someone who obviously wants to harm ‘whiny crying millennials’ — the hundreds of people on Beloit College Campus that the upcoming Trump administration has threatened, harassed, spoken derogatorily of, and abused — is, frankly, terrifying.”
Victor Grossman-Perez’20 also made a post within the Beloit College Student Group, and suggested that the child of the parent who made the the threats be expelled from school.
“There should be zero tolerance for such acts of terrorism and hate,” he wrote. “And I am disgusted but not altogether that surprised by the school’s lack of action regarding the matter.”
Discussion ensued in the comment section, with some students agreeing with Grossman-Perez and others saying his suggestion was over the line as the student should not be held responsible for the words of his father.
The conversation frequently got out of hand, with an alumnus wading into the fray to send a current student a message that read: “You should fucking kill yourself you disgusting pathetic fuck.” Students active on the Facebook group were largely quick to denounce such rhetoric.
Still, this raging debate was perhaps the most severe in a week’s worth of turmoil for the Beloit community.
On Monday, Nov. 14, a series of anonymous posters were hung up around campus at a number of locations. The posters were quickly taken down by the Office of Academic Diversity and Inclusivity, who then disseminated photos of the posters to professors.
The posters were labeled with insignia of the alt-right, drawing comparisons to The Signal zine from earlier this year. The posters had language such as: “Are you sick of anti-white propaganda in college? You are not alone” and “Love who you are. White people exist. White people have the right to exist. White people have the right to exist as white people. Be White.”
After a series of posts were made in the Beloit College Student Group, Dean of Students Christina Klawitter sent an email to the student body.
“The stakes are high for the work we must do to reach our aspiration of being an anti-racist campus,” Klawitter wrote. “Anonymous postings such as these work against our aspiration and I’m disappointed that, instead of taking this opportunity to engage in the critical analysis and reflection demanded by our college mission, some resorted to anonymity.”
Klawitter referenced Beloit’s policy on signs and posters, which mandates that all posters include information about who put them up and who to contact for more information. She also encouraged students to direct further issues to the school’s hate and bias policy. Outside of the email, administrators have indicated they are investigating how the posters were posted initially.
But by the time of Klawitter’s email late on the afternoon on Nov. 14, frustration and angry was already sweeping through the student body.
The delay between the finding of the posters and Klawitter’s response — a period of six to eight hours — caused students to take to the Beloit College Student Group to air their anger. “This is unacceptable,” wrote Taylor Mautz’17. “Without even mentioning how feeble and half hearted Beloit’s attempts to address such incidents have been in the past, the fact that they have still not even bothered to warn students about this most recent event is frankly unacceptable. Beloit College has shown and continues to show that the safety of their students is not a priority for them. We as a student body must demand that they acknowledge and rectify this immediately.”
Samantha Poyer’17 wrote a note to those who posted the material or wrote The Signal, offering “to talk to you about what’s making you feel so alone and unloved as a white person on a majority white campus.”
Commenting on Poyer’s post, Branyelina Caceres’19 expressed disagreement.
“I don’t think sitting down and having a cup of coffee is the right thing to do with these people who have the nerve to do this to our campus,” Caceres wrote. “I’m definitely not saying that they are not validated or in the right to feel the way that they do. But if they do feel the need to lash out in this manner, then no they don’t deserve a damn coffee. Sure, they do need a space to express why they feel marginalized but putting up posters all over campus stating that the identities of their peers should be looked upon differently and is not as important as theirs is extremely disturbing and disrespectful. To these people: find a healthier and safer way to express why you feel marginalized. But before anything — check yourself and check your privilege.”
Students also began to report other harassment in the wake of the posters, including verbal and written provocations.
President Scott Bierman then sent a campus-wide email on Tuesday, Nov. 15, earlier in the day than Heine’s email. In it, Bierman wrote that the posters “hurt community members who were already marginalized, and we denounce it.”
Bierman encouraged students and faculty to continue conversations about these acts, before ending with a message to those who made the posters.
“We end by reinforcing a message originally sent to the editors of The Signal after its first edition: Finding voice for conservative viewpoints requires your participation in real conversations that encourage critical reflection on the part of all of us, not anonymous posters that smack of hate,” Bierman wrote. “We seek to provide forums in which multiple perspectives can be shared. Become a part of that constructive project by helping to plan events that encourage that kind of engagement. We have much to learn, individually and collectively. Let’s hear your ideas.”