A Student Was Arrested for Racist Comments on Yik Yak

Western Washington University cancelled its classes on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving break, after a student posted threats of violence toward minority students on social media. The student, Tysen Campbell, 19, has been arrested and suspended from school, and is likely to be charged with felony malicious harassment.


The student took to the anonymous online platform, Yik Yak, to post violent threats against the school’s student body president. Allegedly, others joined in on the comments, posting pictures of the the student body president, and making threats of lynching. The university police was able to work with Yik Yak to reveal the names of the posters, leading to Campbell’s arrest—A good reminder that posting anonymously on Yik Yak is never completely anonymous, and for good reason.

The comments targeted not only the president of the student body, but also students of students of many different ethnic and minority backgrounds. It is likely that many of the posts were spurred by a recent debate led by the student government about whether or not the school should change its mascot, the Viking, because some students perceive it as racist. One anonymous commenter wrote that they are proud of the school’s “overly Aryan” mascot.

On Monday, when classes resumed, the university held a forum as part of a new “listening project” to more openly address racism on campus.

"Frankly, I'm exhausted. This isn't an 'if' but 'when they come after you' situation. I'm upset that Western let it get to this point," said student Lulu Sapigao at the forum, according to The Associated Press. "I'm upset that we're told to use the buddy system, and that's the only way that we can maybe have safety." Clearly, not even the buddy system can protect students from threats of violence—offline and especially not online.

"What we saw posted was merely a more public, and perhaps a bit more extreme, display of what our students of color experience daily," university president Bruce Shepard said at the event. "There is nothing funny here; these are forms of violence. It is why people understandably walk our campus in fear."

While the university attempted to resume business as usual on Monday, some students are still afraid to come back to campus. A political science professor at the school read a statement on their behalf at the forum, which criticizes the university’s handling of racial tensions and accuses the school of failing to meet the needs of its minority students.

While holding a forum is a step in the right direction, if students are still too afraid to set foot on campus, it is obvious that a forum is not enough. The well-being and education of these students suffers with each passing day that the university does not take further action.