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Oberlin shaken by racial episodes

– Scrawls of racially offensive graffiti and, more recently, a report of someone wearing what looked like a Ku Klux Klan-type hooded robe on campus have shaken students at historically liberal Oberlin College, one of the nation’s first universities to admit blacks.

Two students are being investigated for possible involvement in the graffiti and are facing discipline by the college, but no criminal charges have been filed, said Oberlin city Police Chief Thomas Miller. It wasn’t clear, he said, whether the culprits were pranksters or genuinely motivated by bigotry.

The college canceled Monday’s classes after an early morning report of someone in a white, hooded robe. Investigators were trying to determine whether the sighting was reliable or related to a separate sighting of a person wrapped in a blanket.

Classes resumed Tuesday, though the atmosphere was still tense. The police department has stepped up patrols around the campus at the request of the college.

In an open letter, President Marvin Krislov and three deans told the campus they hoped the ordeal would lead to a stronger Oberlin. Students and professors gathered Monday afternoon to talk about mutual respect.

Hate-filled graffiti and racially charged displays are not unusual on college campuses. But what makes these episodes so shocking is that they happened at a place tied closely with educating and empowering blacks.

The incidents began the first week of February, according to a police report that detailed the defacement of Black History Month posters with the N-word, a “whites only” sign written above a water fountain and a swastika drawn on a science center window. Some of the graffiti and fliers also included homophobic slurs, the report said.

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