One of the two students removed from Oberlin College earlier this year for allegedly circulating virulently racist, anti-Jewish and anti-gay messages around campus is an ardent leftist and committed supporter of President Barack Obama, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.
Dylan Bleier, one of the two students, organized a voter registration drive on behalf of Obama before the 2008 election. That voter drive is still listed on the website for Organizing for Action, the non-profit group whose mission is to advance Obama’s agenda.
The Oberlin Police Department identified Bleier and his partner in the spree, Matt Alden, as two of the principal architects of a month-long spate of racist, anti-Jewish and anti-gay messages at the small, private campus.
On his now-defunct LinkedIn page, Bleier noted that he was the founder and president of the Ithaca High School for Obama club. He also identified himself as a member of the Oberlin College Democrats.
Bleier also listed his participation in a group called Ithaca White Allies Against Structural Racism. He joined the group in May of this year, he reported. He said the group’s goal is to “eradicate structural racism in Tompkins County [NY], via forums discussing racism.”
On his Twitter account, which he protected after TheDCNF reached him on Tuesday, Bleier hailed Obama’s comments on George Zimmerman, tweeting: “Zimmerman is just the tip of the iceberg, a single highly visible symptom of the racist system that is ‘succeeding’ in the US.”
Bleier also describes himself on Twitter as an “atheist/pacifist/environmentalist/libertarian socialist/consequentialist.”
The progressive school canceled all classes for a day in a mad scramble to address the alleged hate-related incidents the campus. The saga culminated in a report of a person wearing a hood and robe resembling a KKK outfit near the Afrikan Heritage House, according to Oberlin’s president Marvin Krislov in a letter also signed by three deans. (RELATED: Vandalism at Oberlin was perpetrated by students)
The Ku Klux Klan incident at Oberlin unfolded in the early morning hours of Monday, March 4.
Senior Sunceray Tabler reported the alleged KKK sighting. Concerned students gathered that night. By morning, they had convinced school administrators to cancel classes for a day and hold a campus-wide teach-ins focusing on racism and homophobia. The kerfuffle made national news. It prompted Lena Dunham, Oberlin alum and star of the HBO series “Girls,” to tweet: “Hey Obies, remember the beautiful, inclusive and downright revolutionary history of the place you call home. Protect each other.” Like Bleier, Dunham is an Obama enthusiast. (RELATED: Obama ad: President wants your electoral virginity)
Oberlin College president Marvin Krislov told CNN at the time that the student rallies were “an educational moment.” He said the students “feel inspired because the institution has the courage to talk about these issues and to confront concerns and that is part of our educational mission.”
Days after the claimed sighting of the KKK member, Oberlin police Lt. Mike McCloskey theorized that the figure Tabler saw was likely a female student who had been wandering around in the same area wearing a blanket.
In June, McCloskey told TheDCNF that Tabler’s boyfriend, who was with her at the time of the incident, said he didn’t see anyone wearing racist attire.
McCloskey also confirmed for TheDCNF then that two white males had been removed from Oberlin’s campus. He would not identify the suspects, but he did note that county prosecutors had no plans to press any criminal charges which might apply.
The FBI also opened an investigation into the spate of hateful messages. Reached Wednesday, the FBI’s Cleveland office told TheDCNF that it could not comment on the case.
While officials at Oberlin have been hostile to all requests for comment since calling off classes, the closed status of the case allowed TheDCNF to obtain police reports through an Ohio Open Records Act request.
The police records indicate that Marjorie Burton, Oberlin’s director of safety and security, initially contacted local police on February 15.
A slew of reports had come in on Feb. 9. One student reported an anti-Semitic flier a campus building. A swastika showed up drawn on a glass door at another building.
Over the next two days, students reported seeing fliers with swastikas and demeaning comments about Martin Luther King, Jr.
On Feb. 11, a female student claimed that both Bleier and Alden were making derogatory comments about her online. She also stated “she had reason to believe that Alden and Bleier were responsible not only for the obscene posts about her but also the derogatory fliers that are being posted around campus.” The student said that Alden and Bleier “are good friends and always together.”
According to the student, someone using the email address email@example.com directed her to a derogatory comment that had been posted about her online.
On Feb. 13, a student reported to campus officials that a racist flier had appeared on her door. The flier made a derogatory reference to Black History Month and — in all capital letters — the sexual assault of “A WHITE WOMAN!”
The unidentified student said she believed that Bleier and Alden were “responsible for this flyer being posted on her door.”
On Feb. 15, a large handmade poster of a Nazi flag with a swastika was discovered taped inside the windows of the second floor of the Science Hall. Bleier was later found to have after-hours access to the Science Center.
The police report shows that school officials questioned Bleier and Alden. The report says that the two students admitted to leaving at least some of the markings, literature, and other paraphernalia across campus as a “joke” or a “troll.”
Oberlin police later subpoenaed IP records from Google and determined that Bleier was behind the fake Krislov account. Krislov initially indicated that he wanted to pursue an investigation but he did not follow through with the complaint, the police report says.
On Feb. 27, Oberlin security officers finally caught Bleier and Alden — apparently red-handed — in the process of their hateful message circulation. At the time, according to the report, one of the students had discarded a piece of paper reading: “Islam. It kills.”
Bleier attempted to explain away the incriminating evidence, according to the police report.
“I’m doing it as a joke to see the college overreact to it as they have with the other racial postings that have been posted on campus,” he told campus cops.
Both Bleier and Alden then denied having anything to do with the previous postings around the school.
At one point, police records say, Bleier wrote a statement in Burton’s office claiming responsibility for the flier left on the door of a female student February 5. He also owned up to responsibility for some cards containing the word “niggermania.”
“I printed out a page of racist ‘niggermania’ cards to show to friends as a joke/for the shock value,” he allegedly wrote, adding that he had somehow accidently left them sitting in a lounge on campus.
“Matt Alden and I made a giant Nazi flag as a joke to troll people and put it up in the science center,” Bleier also confessed, the police report says.
He claimed to have had nothing to do with any of the other swastikas strewn around campus, but then allegedly wrote, “I posted Krislov’s head photoshopped onto Hitler’s body LoL.”
Comments left by Bleier on an official campus blog suggest that Bleier disagreed with an article Krislov wrote addressing some of the name-calling on a contentious discussion board called ObieTalk. Bleier asked what moral authority Oberlin had in the first place, “especially after approving the switch to frack gas…”
Alden categorically denied involvement in spreading the Nazi imagery, writing in a statement, “I had nothing to do with any swastika banner or other sickening Nazi paraphernalia.”
Lt. McCloskey told TheDCNF in June that both students had “lawyered up” after their statements and that police had not heard from them.
Bleier recently had an academic paper published along with Oberlin professor Matthew Elrod in The Journal of Physical Chemistry. As a student at Ithaca High School, Bleier ranked among the top 50 students in the nation in the 2010 Chemistry Olympiad. On his LinkedIn page, he claimed to have scored nearly perfect on his SAT.
A recent Oberlin graduate who knows both Bleier and Alden spoke to TheDCNF in a phone interview.
“I wouldn’t consider the individuals involved to be racists,” he said. “I think they were kind of troublemakers trying to stir up the pot a little bit.”
The student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also suggested that Alden got a kick out of messing with people. “Matt was more of the prankster,” he explained. “Considering they were trolls, they were kind of getting what they wanted out of people getting so upset about it.”
But “then it got to the point where they realized it was bigger than they imagined it could become,” the student added.
The student thinks that Bleier and Alden were likely behind all of the hateful graffiti that marred that campus during the string of incidents in February. He also said that Alden and Bleier had been suspended and removed from campus before the March 4 report of someone wearing KKK attire.
Cornell University law professor William Jacobson, who tracked the Oberlin story at his blog Legal Insurrection, said the fraudulent hate-related incidents “may be the greatest race hoax since Tawana Brawley.”
Jacobson has unsuccessfully reached out to Oberlin officials for comment on the incidents on several occasions.
“Oberlin allowed the entire country to go through months of handwringing over supposedly racist incidents knowing full well it was a hoax,” Jacobson told TheDCNF. “If the president of Oberlin knew of this hoax and allowed Oberlin falsely to be portrayed as a racist campus, he should resign.”
TheDCNF’s requests Wednesday for comment from President Krislov and communications director Scott Wargo were not returned. The school has directly refused to comment on the hoax in the past.
Jeri Galluci, who heads White Allies Against Structural Racism, the Ithaca-based anti-racism alliance cited on LinkedIn by Bleier, confirmed to TheDCNF that Bleier is a member of the group.
“No, no, no,” she said when asked if she thought Bleier was a racist. She added that she had no prior knowledge of the police report recounting Bleier’s involvement in the Oberlin incident.
TheDCNF was able to reach Bleier Tuesday afternoon at his job in Ithaca. He denied involvement in the incidents, but asked for a phone number to reach TheDCNF. He has not called back. However, by Tuesday evening his Twitter account was switched from public to private, and his LinkedIn account had been taken offline.
TheDCNF reached Alden by phone on Wednesday. He hung up without comment. Alden subsequently shut down his Facebook account.
This article has been corrected to state that Bleier hosted the voter registration drive in 2008.
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