Jessie Gamble, a UW student coordinating the Milo Yiannopoulos event and president of the College Republicans of the UW, was recently the subject of a flyer anonymously published online calling her a white supremacist and racist while disseminating her contact information, social media, and her father’s phone number.
“The whole first week, it didn’t resonate with me,” Gamble said. “Like if you’re in a car and you start sliding, you don’t feel scared while you’re doing it, but afterward you’re like ‘oh my gosh.’”
Gamble found out about the flyer when a burner email sent her a message with the PDF file of the flyer. It was additionally put up in various places online.
“I try to be a very private person, until this event,” Gamble said, referencing Yiannopoulos’ event. “I don’t seek any type of drama. I come to school, work on my club, set goals, and this has thrown a wrench in it.”
Regardless of complications, Gamble explicitly said she doesn’t want to name the person who distributed the flyer. She did say, however, that although she has never met the suspect, she does know that they’re a graduate student.
Gamble reported the flyer in an email to UWPD on Jan. 3. It then took no more than 16 hours to find out who did it: Facebook screenshots that the suspect had taken revealed their very own profile information in them. The screenshots have since been deleted.
Screenshots taken had attempted to correlate Gamble with certain white supremacists in Seattle and Tacoma. The method, however, was to pick one friend Gamble had on Facebook and look at that friends’ friends and put Gamble in the same circle, even if she wasn’t friends online or in real life with the eventual people connected.
Gamble said she likes to “react” on Facebook as “angry” to everyone’s posts because she thinks it’s funny.
UWPD Major Steve Rittereiser said that the incident doesn’t constitute harassment because it made no particular threat.
“We don’t see this as a crime per se,” Rittereiser said, “because, really, to some degree, there’s a free speech piece to this thing.”
Disseminating somebody’s phone number is not harassment, according to Rittereiser.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation and we’re certainly paying attention to it,” he said, “because we don’t want this to escalate and, if it were, we may have to reconsider what we have here.”
The City of Seattle specifies that attacking political ideologies is malicious harassment, but also explicitly states “insulting or derogatory words...does not place another person in a reasonable fear of harm...is not malicious harassment.”
Thus far, nobody has called or emailed Gamble as a result of the PDF, but she has seen some concerning comments.
“Some guy saying ‘She’ll meet her fate on inauguration day,’” Gamble said of the now-removed comments.
These type of reactions are what concern Gamble most. She feels the real threats lie with people outside of the UW who might come to campus on Jan. 20, and she worries about both supporters’ and protectors’ safety. As a result, police are going to be stationed at entrances, and SPD will even be rotating in the area.
Due to the flyer, police have advised Gamble to not turn her back to the crowd during the Yiannopoulos event, and to stay by police officers off stage.
In contrast, the PDF reads, “an informed public is a safe public.”
The incident now sits with the UW’s Community Standards and Student Conduct office (CSSC). Rittereiser said this incident likely poses a violation of the student conduct code (Washington Administrative Code 478-120).
Under prohibited conduct lies discriminatory harassment: “language or conduct directed at a person because of...race, color, creed, religion, national origin, citizenship, sex, age, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, or veteran status.”
None of these categories quite match what happened to Gamble, but if it’s pervasive enough to create an intimidating environment or has the purpose of unreasonably interfering with her academics, work, or her ability to participate or benefit from university programs and opportunities, then it could constitute as violating the student conduct code.
“It’s really important that students make themselves aware of the expectation of what it means to be a part of the UW community,” said Elizabeth Lewis, director of the CSSC.
As the flyer makes its rounds and word circulates, Gamble has felt some of the aftermath.
“One of my classes, I walked in, got a few looks,” she said. “I think people are starting to figure it out.”
Gamble considered dropping the class. She also said a professor Wednesday singled her out as the only Republican in the class.
“It’s different to happen in class,” Gamble said, “because that’s my purpose here, is to study and learn.”
Gamble considers herself a libertarian Republican. She wasn’t a Donald Trump supporter, initially preferring Rand Paul, and even considered voting for Gary Johnson. That changed, however, when they fell out of the running, and Gamble decided Trump’s “values aligned with Rand Paul’s platform” the most. She also contended the Affordable Care Act repeal was a game-changer for her vote.
“I appreciate his efforts, and not his methods,” Gamble said of Trump, who she considers a moderate outside of his semantics, and his cabinet picks experts. “I want someone to say no. I hope his cabinet will tell him no on things.”
A similar incident to this one happened at the University of Puget Sound a couple weeks ago. The result was a three-year suspension of the students who disseminated information on other students and staff, calling some racist, sexist, xenophobic, and in one incident a rapist. Those who made the controversial flyer are currently appealing their suspensions.
Gamble is currently getting a lawyer in preparation for a lawsuit. Still, she hopes to set precedent with the incident that this isn’t okay.
“So I guess my solution is leaving people alone, not agitate or irritate,” she said. “Grieve but don’t use it to attack. You’re not getting anywhere, it’s just becoming more divisive.”
Students and faculty who feel they’ve witnessed or are involved in a violation of the student conduct code can report it in an online form or call for a meeting with the CSSC.
The CSSC receives reports from different places, including students, police, and third parties, according to Lewis. The information received is then evaluated and involved parties meet. If it rises to a level of violation, a staff member is assigned to find facts, witnesses, evidence, and conduct interviews. The student who is allegedly charged then holds an informal hearing with the fact-finder, also called a hearing officer. This hearing allows the alleged violator to know of the charges, learn why they’re suspected, and provide their side of the story along with their own witnesses and evidence.
“Regardless of how we get the info from a reporting student, we would want to meet with them to explain what the student reporting process is, so they’re aware of what’s going to happen and how much info we can share with them,” Lewis said.
Reach reporter Kelsey Hamlin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ItsKelseyHamlin