University of Wyoming officials are investigating who posted an anonymous rape threat aimed at a female UW student Wednesday evening on a Facebook page bearing the university’s seal.
The post targeted Meg Lanker-Simons, a UW senior who is a well-known blogger and radio host.
Said the message: “I want to hatef--- Meg Lanker- so hard. That chick that runs her liberal mouth all the time and doesn’t care who knows it. I think its hot and it makes me angry. One night with me and shes gonna be a good Republican b----.”
The page’s name is UW Crushes, a forum designed for students to anonymously write about their love interests and sexual proclivities. Anyone can sign in to a Facebook account, go to UW Crushes and secretly submit a comment via a link to surveymonkey.com. The page’s administrators then post the comments from surveymonkey.com onto Facebook.
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The school said Friday it had no affiliation with UW Crushes.
The lack of an identity for the source of the post has school officials and Lanker-Simons questioning whether the post was from a student, faculty member, local resident or someone else.
“For all I know the [page] administrators are making up every one of these posts,” Lanker-Simons said.
After the post appeared online, the page exploded with comments asking the administrators to remove the comment. It remained posted for eight hours. UW officials received calls and angry emails Thursday from people who saw the site.
The university vowed it would take appropriate action if employees or students were involved, said David Cozzens, the dean of university affairs, in a statement from the school. The university said it has taken action regarding the use of the trademarked seal.
Page administrators were not named on the page and anonymously denied knowledge of the threat, claiming they don’t read every comment before it’s published on the page. In the hours after the post was removed, UW students started a page named UW Crush Admins Exposed in an effort to try to find out who posted the threat.
Lanker-Simons said she hopes the university and law enforcement would be able to track down the person who wrote the post. The page’s independence from the university makes the search difficult, said Megan Selheim, the Stop the Violence program coordinator at UW.
“The biggest danger is that we don’t know who made the comment,” she said.
University police contacted Lanker-Simons Thursday afternoon after law enforcement officials on campus were flooded with calls from upset people in the community. Law enforcement told her there “was no way” to track down a suspect, she said.
University spokesman Chad Baldwin said the investigation is ongoing and campus police will attempt to trace the post to a suspect.
Laramie isn’t a stranger to sexual violence.
Five rapes were reported to the Laramie City Police Department in 2011, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There were 10 rapes were reported between the police and the university in 2010. Around 45 percent of rapes that occur anywhere in the U.S. go unreported, said Alexia Cooper, a statistician for the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The online threat highlights a recent surge in sexually motivated Facebook pages aimed at college audiences where commenters use explicit, racist or misogynist language in their posts. UW joins New York University, Brown University and the University of Chicago as colleges where students have used Facebook pages to post such comments — pages that display the university’s name but share no affiliation.
Many of the posts on UW Crushes are innocent. The anonymous writers post comments about the people with whom they locked eyes in the library, for example. Others are more sexually explicit. But none were as vitriolic as the post aimed at Lanker-Simons.
The page came to Cozzens’ attention two weeks ago after a student expressed concern over the content popping up on the page. Cozzens refrained from commenting until Wednesday evening’s post.
“[The] recent post on this site was not only out of the bounds of good taste and civility but crossed into safety and viciousness by threatening a UW student with violence,” he said.
Social media provides a new outlet and platform, but the behaviors aren’t new, Selheim said.
“It’s just on a bigger stage,” she said.