The November 2015 hate-speech incident occurred shortly after student-government leaders talked about opening a discussion on whether the school’s mascot, a Viking, was inclusive.

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A former Western Washington University (WWU) student who posted “Let’s lynch her” in reference to a black student leader in November 2015 was sentenced Thursday to six months of probation.

Under the plea agreement, Tysen Campbell, 20, of Granite Falls, Snohomish County, won’t have a felony on his record if he stays out of trouble, according to The Bellingham Herald.

The November 2015 hate-speech incident occurred shortly after student-government leaders talked about opening a discussion on whether the school’s mascot, a Viking, was inclusive.

What is a bias crime?

Under Washington state law, the malicious harassment — or hate crime — statute provides protections for people attacked over race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or mental, physical or sensory handicap.

Here’s an explanation of what "bias crime" actually means.

Soon afterward, profanity-laced hate speech directed at students of color began appearing on social media. One of the posts, on the anonymous social-messaging application Yik Yak, said: “Let’s lynch her.”

Those words, investigators believe, refered to student-body President Belina Seare, who is black.


Bellingham police arrested Campbell, who at the time was a WWU sophomore. He was charged with malicious harassment and spent about 24 hours in jail before posting $10,000 bail.

Campbell, who is white, also was suspended from WWU.

According to state law, malicious harassment is an attack motivated by a perception of someone’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender or disability, and results in physical injury, property damage or threats that would place a reasonable person in fear of harm. The felony carries a term of up to five years in prison.

Campbell acknowledged to a campus police officer that he wrote “Let’s lynch her” on an online thread about Seare but said he promptly deleted it, according to the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

In July 2015, Michael Karlberg, a WWU communications professor, initiated the conversation about the school’s mascot and shared his opinion with Seare and Abby Ramos, the student government vice president for diversity.


Ramos then raised the issue at an Associated Students board meeting in November to discuss changing the mascot to be a more inclusive figure, the newspaper reported.

The next day, KIRO 7 reported on the WWU mascot story and Seare and Ramos expressed concern that the TV station “misrepresented the origins and nature of the WWU mascot story,” charging papers say.

The online vitriol then began:

On Nov. 20 on 4 Chan, a digital-message board, one post included a photo of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members burning a cross with the caption, “Accurate depiction of how politically correct people see something as minor as a Viking,” the charges say.

Another post to the site used a racial slur in referring to Seare, with a third advocating that “these (expletive) losers need to be strung up to trees and killed,” the charges say.

On Nov. 22, anonymous commenters began a thread about Seare on Yik Yak, claiming the student president had called white college students “baby KKK” on her personal Facebook page, with one commenter writing, “that’s messed up,” according to charging papers.

A student reported the social-media “chatter” about the mascot issue and provided screen shots of inappropriate posts to Eric Alexander, dean of student engagement and director of Vikings facilities, on Nov. 23, charging papers say.

That same day, Ramos alerted Seare to the Yik Yak thread and told her “specifically of the lynching comment directed at Seare.” Seare immediately became concerned for her safety given “the historical significance of the term ‘lynching’ and the recent social-media climate surrounding the mascot issue,” the charges say.

Later that evening, Seare and Ramos met with WWU police. Seare, who was in tears, told officers she was “petrified to even leave the police station,” according to charging papers.

The charges allege police tracked down Campbell as the cellphone user who had posted the lynching comment to Yik Yak.

Outside the courtroom, Campbell said, “I’m glad this is behind me. And it was a poor representation of who I am,” according to the Herald.