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  • Eric Santomauro-Stenzel

Hamilton Student Arrested for Jodel Shooting Threat, College Continues Normal Operations

BRISTOL HUB - Hamilton College sophomore Peter Ashby Howard III was arrested in his residence hall for Making a Threat of Mass Harm, a class B misdemeanor, according to New York State Police. The charge would carry a punishment of up to 90 days in prison, if convicted. He is accused of making a Jodel post Sunday evening threatening to “shoot up” Kirner-Johnson (KJ), which caused a campus lockdown and several law enforcement agencies to search the campus over several hours. Howard was released and is off campus on interim suspension pending College judicial proceedings, and if found responsible will face severe consequences. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Originally from Louisville, KY, Howard’s name is no longer on his dorm room door, and a roommate told Monitor they had not seen him or had contact with him recently. The roommate declined to answer further questions. College officials said they had not identified a motive for the threat or found any weapons. Howard is scheduled to appear in the Town of Kirkland Court on May 2nd.

Howard is also a member of the Student Assembly for the Class of 2025 delegation. SA President Nicole Soret ‘25 told Monitor “we had no idea about any of this related to Ashby's behavior prior to what is presently unfolding and are in conversation about disciplinary action and impeachment.” SA’s weekly meeting is tonight at 8:30pm on Zoom, and Director of Campus Safety Francis (Frank) Coots will be present to share updates and answer questions.

At a press conference in the Bristol Hub today, Coots and Senior Director of Media Relations Vige Barrie answered questions from about half a dozen news agencies. (Update Tuesday afternoon: Hamilton made the YouTube video of the press conference private Monday night, saying it was never their intent for it to remain up beyond the livestream. Tuesday afternoon, they put it up publicly again "due to overwhelming interest by parents.")

Coots revealed the suspect was identified through working with community members, law enforcement, and Jodel itself. Jodel is based in Germany and historically has not cooperated with students’ and the College’s efforts to tamp down harassment on its platform which has persisted for years. The app was used widely by students during the shelter in place to share information, console one another, and at points angrily criticize peers. Jodel did not respond to request for comment.

Felix Tager, 2023 Class President and gun violence prevention organizer with March for Our Lives NY, told Monitor, “We need to build a community that fosters love and condemns hate. And when we have apps like Jodel that shine a light on how much hate there really is when people can hide behind a screen, we understand how much of a systemic issue this is.” He also noted that the app can make important space for people afraid to discuss issues publicly.

Last night, the Assembly sent a message to several high-ranking administrators and all department chairs requesting classes be canceled today to allow students space to process and recover from the traumatic event. Many individual students also emailed similar requests to campus leaders. Spurred by the trauma of barricading rooms, hiding in basements and bathrooms, and contacting loved ones for what felt like could be the last time, students strongly supported class cancellation on Jodel with one post receiving over 300 upvotes, a tally previously unheard of.

The Jodel post calling for classes to be canceled, made yesterday evening.

This morning, President David Wippman, Dean of Students Chris Card, and Dean of Faculty Ngoni Munemo emailed the campus community declining students’ requests, though announcing faculty had been asked to be more lenient.

“The lockdown and associated events will affect different members of our community differently. For some students, the structure and routine of classes and the resumption of normal activities will be helpful. Others may need to take more time to process what happened, though as some of you have noted, that will not happen overnight. Faculty have been informed of last night’s events and asked to consider adjustments to deadlines as appropriate,” they wrote.

Soret issued a statement to Monitor responding, “While getting classes canceled was not successful and we disagree with the decision of the administration to continue with scheduled programming, we are continuing to have conversations about improving protocol and creating meaningful change.” The Assembly had been coordinating with administrators throughout the shelter in place order to ensure information, food, and counseling resources were available to students.

“While I’m grateful for the Counseling Center, we just need time, too,” Tager told Monitor.

In a message to all faculty, Dean Munemo wrote, “The shelter in place and associated events likely impaired students’ ability to work on homework and other assignments. As we return to classes this morning, I ask for your flexibility in making adjustments to deadlines for students.”

Many students were angered by the lack of a universal response, taking to social media, emails, and Monitor to voice their concerns.

Asked during the press conference whether students who choose not to attend class today and tomorrow could face academic repercussions, officials first said they did not have an answer. Afterwards, Vice President for Communications and Marketing Melissa Richards told Monitor that administration did not have the authority to make such a policy regarding absences, and that it would be left to individual professors, who by and large have been flexible. She said the Faculty Assembly would be the body with authority to change course requirements; the Faculty Assembly could not be reached by press time.

In the follow-up of this campus crisis, campus leaders are discussing changes for the future. Among them are additional locks on doors in academic buildings, crisis communications changes to ensure clarity, and more.

Contact monitor(@) if you have additional information for this story.

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