Editor in Chief
The College of Wooster is investigating racist Facebook posts made by Drake Schwenke ’18, who has been removed from campus pending the conclusion of the investigation.
The College learned of the posts around noon on Saturday, Jan. 13, from reports by several students and faculty members. That evening, President Bolton strongly condemned the posts in a campus-wide email, describing them as “appalling” and “filled with hateful and explicitly racist language and arguments,” and said that they “profoundly violated what Wooster stands for.”
“It is crucial that The College of Wooster be a truly equitable and inclusive space,” Bolton said. “We know we have not yet reached that goal, but we must continue to work toward it — urgently, relentlessly and together.”
The email also stated that the incident had been reported to the Wooster Police Department and that the College’s own investigation was underway.
Students reacted to the incident during an open meeting in Lowry Pit on Sunday evening. The meeting, which lasted two hours and included over 35 statements from students, is covered in detail in this issue’s story of the week.
Since the meeting, many students have called on the College to act more swiftly in disciplining Schwenke. Several students tweeted at President Bolton’s official Twitter account demanding Schwenke’s expulsion.
“Before I came to school my parents were promised by admin that I would be safe here,” said Desi LaPoole ’20 in a tweet mentioning Bolton’s account. “Now they’re asking me if I want to transfer to a safer school after I told them the racist Drake Schwenke is still on campus.”
In a tweet referencing a similar incident where a student said she had was expelled after posting racist videos, Khorkie Tyus ’18, vice president of the Black Students Association, said, “So @WoosterEdu the ball is in your court now, University of Alabama acted within a 24hr time span and we’re almost at a week! This simply shows that other campuses have a higher regard for their students safety and concerns, but your lack of action can be read as complacency.”
In response to these concerns, President Bolton has said that the College is investigating the incident as quickly as it can.
“We are committed to the safety of all members of the community, to conducting a thorough and fair process that respects the rights and confidentiality of all involved, and to completing it as promptly as possible,” Bolton said in an email to the campus shortly after 1 p.m. last Thursday.
Hours later, seemingly in response to continued expressions of frustration with the investigation’s progress, Bolton sent another email to the campus, this one focused on describing the investigatory and judicial process.
“Many of you have expressed frustration with this process, and especially with its timing, but our policies for responding to student conduct issues are legally binding … We must follow the process mandated by those policies in every case,” said Bolton.
When asked, Bolton and Dean of Students Scott Brown declined to estimate how long they felt the investigation would take, saying only that it was moving as swiftly as possible.
Adding to students’ frustrations are tight restrictions on the information the College is allowed to share about the investigation, mandated by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Unfamiliar with or otherwise resentful of the law’s restrictions, many students have interpreted the College’s necessarily tight-lipped statements as indicative of a lack of transparency in the process.
Marina Adams ’19, vice chair of Campus Council (CC), suggested that policies dealing directly with students’ use of social media could have allowed for a swifter investigation.
“Having a policy in place will not only send a clear message of what we, as a community, will and will not tolerate, but it will also guarantee that in case something like this happens again, we will be fully prepared to deal with [it] in an efficient and timely manner,” said Adams.
Jordan Griffith ’19, chair of CC, echoed this sentiment, but said, “I defer to the Freedom of Expression and Inquiry Task Force to define and draft that policy.”
Asked if he was concerned that disciplinary action against Schwenke would violate his right to free speech, John Rudisill, de facto leader of the Freedom of Expression Task Force, said, “While I would not support criminalizing this kind of speech, I do consider strong disciplinary action, taken by the College (following proper procedure and due diligence) to be fully justifiable and in no way a violation of the rights of the student.”
Rudisill — who is also chair of the philosophy department, in which Schwenke is a major — went on to assert that many individuals with racist views are capable of chang