Campus nearly empty, silent in wake of online threats

“You could feel that there was pain and tension in the air,” sophomore Claire Papp said.

Tuesday was a hectic night on MU’s campus, from reports of threats to students via social media, to unconfirmed and redacted rumors of the Ku Klux Klan being on campus. The events of Tuesday night left an eerie, quiet feeling on campus for Wednesday morning.

As early as Tuesday evening, the Missouri Students Association [called for the university to cancel classes](, saying “ALL STUDENTS’ lives are at risk because of the threats that have been made. Holding classes puts all students at a high level of risk and danger.” MSA said they would tell students not to come to campus if classes were not canceled. Around 6 a.m. Wednesday, outgoing Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin tweeted that classes would proceed as usual. The sidewalks of campus were less crowded than normal, and students reported lectures that are typically filled with hundreds of students had only a few show up. Some classes were even completely empty. As the 11 a.m. section of the honors humanities class “The Ancient World” wrapped up in Jesse Wrench Auditorium, senior Corie Wilkins took an opportunity to hop on the stage and call for all students’ attention before they left. “If there was ever a time whether you questioned that racism exists here or not, trust me, it does,” Wilkins said at the start of his nearly four-minute speech. “Last night, I had to drive back from Fulton terrified that some of my friends were going to get hurt because of the color of their skin. I had people calling me trying to figure out if they could stay with me last night because they didn’t feel safe on campus.” The humanities students, who only represented about 70 percent of the usual class size, respectfully stopped and gave Wilkins their full attention as he spoke. “I had to make a decision today whether I would let fear dictate how I live my life in terms of whether I came to class today, and many of you made that same decision,” Wilkins said. “But in my mind, the decision is a little bit different because the threat was directed towards myself and people like me.” Wilkins encouraged students to speak up when they hear racist speech, whether a black person is around. “Just as the word ‘nigger’ has been written in blood in American history, this is not something small, this is not something to make light of, this is not something to joke about,” Wilkins said. “These are people’s lives. You’ve never heard a person tell a Jew, ‘Well, you know you guys can call each other kikes, so why can’t we call you kikes?’ You’ve never heard someone say that about Hispanics in terms of the word spic.” After speaking, Wilkins told The Maneater that he was not comfortable being on campus Wednesday. “I am aware of my blackness in a way that I shouldn’t have to be,” Wilkins said. “I have to look over my shoulder left and right every time before I take a step.” Freshman Garren Wegener is vice chair of operations for the Residence Halls Association and was present at last night’s joint session of student governments, which adjourned when the social media threats arose. He left his residence hall North Hall half an hour earlier than usual this morning. “I wanted to stop by the Black Culture Center because that’s where we dropped off the students who had been protesting and who were, if something were to happen, the students who would have been threatened most,” Wegener said. “I wanted to stop by and see how they were doing.” When he arrived at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, the doors were locked, though they were supposed to be open at the time. It was too early for classes to start, but Wegener said campus was basically deserted. One of his classes was canceled not because of yesterday’s threats, but because many of the students told the professor they would not be attending. “Most of the people in the class are freshmen and felt unsafe in this environment, so they are not on campus,” Wegener said. The Jewish Student Organization wrote a letter to the university on Wednesday condemning the university for not canceling class, saying the university was “continuing to delegitimize the effects of racism on the University of Missouri campus and has allowed racist individuals to be passed off as merely bullies.” The organization called the decision to hold classes an “injustice to those who are fearful for their lives and the safety of other students.” Some professors chose to cancel class, while others did not. Spanish professor Monica Marcos-Llinas said she understood why some students felt afraid. However, she explained why she chose not to cancel any of her classes. “If we don’t come to class today, and in a week there’s another threat and again we don’t come to class, the university might lose credibility,” she said. “We can’t quit doing our jobs because of some people who like to use fear to threaten us.” Twelve students are enrolled in Marcos-Llinas’ 1 p.m. class, but only four arrived to class on Wednesday. One of them, sophomore Claire Papp, said it was her only class of the day because her others were canceled. “Walking here, (campus) was completely empty,” she said. “I saw very few students.” Papp said the students she did see were barely talking, which contributed to the sadness of the atmosphere. “You could feel that there was pain and tension in the air,” she said. Sophomore Brian Roskamp also noticed the difference in campus traffic while walking to his 10 a.m. statistics class. “The streets were kind of littered with a couple students going to class, whereas they’re usually full and everyone’s walking on the sidewalks,” Roskamp said. He estimated that attendance in his statistics and Spanish classes was about 20 percent of what it normally is. “These are classes that people don’t skip, but everybody was gone even though it wasn’t canceled, because there’s a tense atmosphere going around,” Roskamp said. Marcos-Llinas said she was worried and sad when she learned of the threats last night and was still worried when she woke up this morning. She said she respected students’ decisions not to come to class, though she had no reservations about coming to class herself. “My obligation is to come to my classes,” she said.

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