Four African American students at Gonzaga University’s law school received copies Saturday of a threatening letter that contained racial slurs.
The letter, dated March 31, was addressed to Aryan Nations’ leader Richard Butler and signed by the Law Students for a Pure America. The letter writer named the four students and said they walked to and from school.
“The law school considers this a deplorable act,” said John Clute, dean of Gonzaga’s law school. “We are investigating to determine the identity of the perpetrator.
“The one positive thing that has come out of this incident is the wholehearted support of our students of diverse cultural backgrounds.”
The four students are the only black students of the 201 first-year law students at Gonzaga. The class has about 30 students of color.
The students - three men and one woman - found the letters in their mail folders in the main foyer of the law school about noon Saturday.
“They received a communication from what we believe to be another first-year student whose identity is not known to us,” said Clute, who declined to release the contents of the letter. “The communication contained racial epithets, some typical white supremacist harangue.”
A first-year student is suspected because the letters indicate the writer had classes with the African American students.
The letters are being investigated by campus security and the Spokane police, Clute said. He also plans to call the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Students said the letter to Butler asked for the Aryan Nations’ help in “cleaning up” Gonzaga’s law school. It said the addresses were available for the four students and for Asian American students at Gonzaga’s law school.
Butler apparently was at the law school March 27 for a speech by Floyd Cochran, former political director for the Aryan Nations. Cochran, who now renounces white supremacy, spoke at a forum sponsored by the Jewish Law Caucus.
Butler was flanked by at least four members of the Aryan Nations, students said.
Butler could not be reached for comment Sunday night. It is unclear whether Butler actually received the letter.
Cochran’s appearance wasn’t connected to the letters, Clute said.
But “it’s probably a little more than coincidence that it happened after that” speech, he said.
Frank Cikutovich, outgoing president of the student bar association, told the student body about the letters at a school dance Saturday night.
“I’m appalled,” said Cikutovich, a third-year student. “As far as the student body is concerned, we’re willing and doing everything we can to protect the students, and we’re supporting them 100 percent. We’ll do anything we can to find who did this.”
The student bar association has talked to all four students and offered any assistance such as helping them move, Cikutovich said.
Cikutovich also mentioned several racial incidents at Gonzaga in the past. None, however, targeted individual students.
“There were a couple of incidents with anonymous phone calls, anonymous racial things being written around the school,” Cikutovich said. “There has been an undercurrent of racism at the school.”