STORY BY COURTNEY FISHMAN
Drake University first-year Michael Crisp was arrested and charged with first-degree harassment after threatening messages were posted on Yik Yak Thursday afternoon.
Crisp posted bond after his arrest at approximately 3 a.m. Friday morning by the Des Moines Police Department. Sgt. Jason Halifax said Crisp has yet to see a judge and is scheduled to appear at Polk County District Court Monday.
Contacted at his home in Kansas City, Missouri, Crisp originally declined to comment on the advice of his attorney.
Scott Law, director of Campus Public Safety (DPS), said students were the biggest resource to help resolve this case.
“Students wanted to supply us with as much information they could get their hands on to help us determine if it was an actual threat or if someone was just fooling around,” Law said.
Within 20 minutes of the post, Law said he received between 15 and 25 calls from concerned students. But it wasn’t until later that DPS received a screen capture of the post.
A police report says Crisp admitted to posting the threat.
The online threats included that “Columbine will look like child’s play compared to what I’m going to do,” and that the poster had access to “top-tier guns.”
In accordance with The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which limits the release of student’s protected information to a third party, Dean of Students Sentwali Bakari only spoke about general consequences for threatening social media posts.
“Something of this nature could certainly lead to suspension or expulsion,” Bakari said. “Something like this could also have police implications. We will certainly work in cooperation with the police department, or the FBI or any law enforcement to try and resolve this situation.”
Under the Iowa Code section 708.7, harassment in the first degree is considered an aggravated misdemeanor. This could result in up to two years in jail and a fine ranging from $625 to $6,250.
At 1:19 p.m. Thursday someone who identified as Michael Crisp responded to a student’s post about the Yik Yak threats on the “Drake University Student Senate: Student Services” Facebook page.
“Some idiot posted a Yak about shooting up the school worse than Columbine. Unfortunately I doubt they’ll be able to find the dumbass,” and “Indeed. Anonymity tends to bring out the stupid in people,” were two of comments.
When contacted about the Facebook comment, Crisp said “I was scared and in denial,” via text message Monday night.
Students reacted in different ways about the potential threat to campus, said Student Body President Joey Gale.
“I had students coming to me, telling me their parents told them not to go to class that day, and they emailed their professors, and that was understandable,” Gale said. “I had some students approach me and say, ‘Is this a joke? Who posted this? Why is the university overreacting?’”
The anonymous social media app launched in November 2013 has faced harsh criticism from school officials nationwide. Gale expressed his concerns in a Times-Delphic column published on Sept. 24.
Other universities have also experienced threatening Yaks on their campuses. Twenty-year-old Penn State student Jong Seong Him was arrested after a threatening Yak was sent Oct. 12. The Daily Collegian reported that Him was charged with “misdemeanor counts of terroristic threats and disorderly conduct.”
Last Thursday, a student from Delevan High School in Delevan, Wisconsin was taken into custody after a threatening Yak. NBC affiliate TMJ Channel 4 said the school went on lockdown for 20 minutes. Yik Yak was also blocked on the high school’s network.
Both Bakari and Gale said there has not been discussion about blocking the app from the Drake network. The campus was not put on lockdown last Thursday, but Law said it was under consideration and ultimately vetoed.
Gale expressed his concerns for the student who posted the threatening Yak.
“I personally don’t think I’m worried about an actual incident, I am worried about the student’s well-being,” Gale said. “Making sure he is working with the health center, making sure he is working with the dean of students, to make sure he is OK and to make sure Drake is still a safe environment for him.”
The arrest of Crisp has some students questioning the anonymity of the app.
“I think this whole incident has been a pretty good wake-up call for Drake students to recognize that the university is monitoring this app and that what you say, I guess, can come back to you,” Gale said. “It isn’t fully anonymous as many may think.”