“It is a proven fact that homosexuality is an evil act. It is a sick knowledge and a sickness of the mind.” This was the opening quote from a letter addressed to President “Barak” Obama, and given to students at the SUPB Drag Show on Oct 22.
John Carroll University’s Dolan Center for Science and Technology was the location for three instances of cryptic, homophobic letters on Oct. 4, Oct. 22 and Oct. 31. The author of the letters chose to remain anonymous and used the pseudonym, “Niko Philosopher.”
The first letters were found on Oct. 4, in Dolan Center for Science and Technology, and are focused on Darwinism. The second letters were found on Oct. 22, and were distributed at the SUPB Drag Show. The third and final letter on Oct. 31, was sent to faculty in their drop boxes and under their doors. Aside from the letters at the drag show, the majority of them were found in the Biology Department.
The letters were not the only form of communication. “Niko Philosopher” also wrote, “repent and follow Jesus, as he is the only perfect one” on a dry erase board in Dolan. According to a letter sent to faculty from University Provost and Academic Vice President, Jeanne Colleran, on Nov. 5, it is believed that the letters distributed on Oct. 31 were delivered between 6 p.m on Friday, Oct. 30, and 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31.
In response to the letters, John Carroll University Police Department increased patrolling the Dolan Center and launched an investigation immediately on Oct. 31.
After investigating the incidents and letters, the John Carroll Threat Assessment Team stated, “While the letters do not contain any statements making threats of harm by the writer toward others and do not seem to pose an imminent threat to people or property, the content of the letters are disturbing and the timing of their—distribution when most faculty, staff and students are not in the building—is of concern.”
The threat assessment team was assembled at John Carroll after the Virginia Technical Institute shootings in 2007. The team consists of Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Sherri Crahen; Interim Director and Staff Psychologist, Mark Onusko of the John Carroll Counseling Center; Director and Chief of the JCUPD Tim Peppard; Risk Manager Garry Hamony; Associate Professor and Associate Academic Vice President Jim Krukones; Assistant Vice President of Human Resources Alex Teodosio; and General Counsel Colleen Treml. Each member was picked to represent the different areas of the University.
Brian Hurd, the Deputy Director of the JCUPD said, “We are certain that ‘Niko Philosopher’ is not a current student.” Hurd also stated the suspect may be an alumnnus of John Carroll. Hurd said no crime had been committed, and stated that, “there was nothing threatening or disturbing since it was a viewpoint, but people perceived it that way.” He feels that it was not the content that was disturbing for some, but the way it was delivered late at night by an anonymous person when no one was around.
When asked about the language in the letter and what was disturbing, Colleran said, “First, it is important to stress that the letters do not state a direct threat to persons or property at John Carroll. The letter-writer makes claims about homosexuality that are neither factual nor fair. The letter’s tone and content does not fit with our core values, our code of conduct, our non-discrimination policy or a diversity statement. Anonymous letters also are disturbing since the author will not engage in dialogue or stand openly behind his or her own views.”
While the letters addressed to faculty focused on arguing evolution and Darwinism, the letter to students states, “Homosexuality is Satanism; individuals who approve of homosexuality are also satanic people.” He continues, saying, “Anyone that is against God is an evil person like Satan.”
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Sherri Crahen said, “Part of my role is to recognize that individuals have the right to free speech, so while someone might write something in a letter that I personally do not agree with, that doesn’t mean an individual does not have the right to express their opinions.”
Student Union President, senior, Cole Hassay, responded to the situation stating, “People should be allowed to freely express themselves, regardless of their beliefs. Even though some of us may have differing viewpoints on things, it is important to always be respectful of one another. One reason I love John Carroll is because students here seem to always be willing to have open discussions on issues, regardless of their contentiousness.”
In response to the question of the openness of John Carroll’s campus to the public, and if there should be stricter guidelines, Crahen said, “John Carroll is pretty public about lectures and events, and we will publicize if someone is doing an event on campus and the public can attend these. Sometimes this will attract an individual who has opposing viewpoints. Not everyone is going to agree.”
She continued to say, “That raises the question of if we want to have a swipe card to get into the buildings after a certain time. However, we do have many lectures at night, and we love to have the public on campus.”
In her 30 years of experience of handling student affairs Crahen said, “It is always good for all of us, students, faculty, and staff to be aware of our surroundings so if we notice something that seems out of place we can do something about that. The Provost communicated information about what was happening, and I think that made a lot of sense.”
Crahen says, “The reality is our students are here. We do a lot of training called Bi-standard Intervention Training, (BIS) that training is to help students intervene if they’re in a situation where, such as seeing someone who had too much to drink, or have a friend who has a mental health issue and those same skills can be applied to situations like ‘Niko Philosopher’.” In the
‘14-‘15 school year, Crahen said that they trained 636 in BIS, including second semester freshmen who planned to return to live on campus their sophomore year. The training will occur again in the spring.
In response to a question about Diversity Week and another incident that could occur similar to what happened at the SUPB Drag Show, Colleran stated, “I believe in our community, and I trust that the events during Diversity Week will garner the participation and appreciation they deserve. At John Carroll, we do not just ‘welcome’ people of diverse backgrounds: they are us.”
Currently, the investigation is still open and there are no new leads into who “Niko Philosopher” is.
Crahen says, “We would hope they would include their full name. Having a false name isn’t owning it. If you have a strong opinion, and you want to engage in a civil conversation or debate then you should take responsibility, but to do something anonymously is not doing that and taking the easy way out.”
Niko ended his letter, with a warning, stating, “If you are not going to repent, you are going straight to hell, and even though you don’t believe that, you will see that for sure because God is the proven creator of the human being as history proves.”
Deputy Director Brian Hurd of JCUPD confirmed on Nov. 10 that they have a suspect who they believe is responsible, and they are working to confirm this now.
Editor’s Note: If you see a crime, or witness unusual activity, contact JCUPD at 216-397-1234, or dial 911. To be involved with the Bi-Standard Intervention training, contact Sherri Crahen at email@example.com. For updates and developments on this story, follow The Carroll News on Twitter, @TheCarrollNews.