Citing gun laws, feminist speaker cancels Utah State visit following threat of campus shooting
LOGAN — A prominent feminist scheduled to speak at Utah State University on Wednesday canceled her presentation, citing Utah gun laws, after an email threatening a campus shooting was sent to the school.
The message, sent to about a dozen school offices late Monday night, threatened "the deadliest school shooting in American history" if Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist known for her critical look at how women are portrayed in popular media, is allowed to speak at the school.
The email, provided to the Deseret News by USU, purports to have been written by a student with access to a semiautomatic rifle, several pistols and pipe bombs.
"I'm giving you a chance to stop it," the message reads, demanding that Sarkeesian's presentation be canceled.
Sarkeesian was invited by USU's Center for Women and Gender to speak Wednesday as part of the school's weekly Common Hour presentation series. The speech had been scheduled to take place as planned until Sarkeesian contacted the school and canceled Tuesday night.
Sarkeesian asked school officials whether firearms would be allowed in the auditorium where she was scheduled to speak. USU officials replied that, in accordance with Utah law, anyone with a valid concealed carry permit would be able to enter with a gun, according to a statement released by the university.
On Twitter, Sarkeesian said she requested pat-downs or metal detectors for those coming to the presentation but was denied based on Utah's firearms laws.
"Forced to cancel my talk at USU after receiving death threats because police wouldn't take steps to prevent concealed firearms at the event," she tweeted.
The email was one of several threats made regarding the USU appearance, Sarkeesian said on Twitter. One of them specifically referenced "GamerGate," an ongoing conflict over sexism in video game culture, she said.
"I'm safe. I will continue my work. I will continue speaking out. The whole game industry must stand up against the harassment of women," Sarkeesian said.
State and local law enforcement, the FBI and other specialists were contacted as soon as the email was discovered, USU spokesman Tim Vitale said. Those who reviewed the message say it is unlikely a USU student sent it and that the threat is consistent with others that Sarkeesian has received in the past, Vitale added.
The sender has not been identified, and the investigation is ongoing.
"We are an institution of higher learning. We educate people. This is what we do. In this case, we invited a nationally known speaker who is bringing an interesting perspective about an important topic," Vitale said.
Increased security measures were already in the works before USU received the email in light of threats made against Sarkeesian in the past.
Sarkeesian is the founder of Feminist Frequency, a Web series that looks to deconstruct female stereotypes in pop culture, as well as harassment of women online and in video gaming.
The writer of the threatening email calls Sarkeesian "everything wrong with the feminist woman" and blames feminism for the emasculation of Western men. The message also refers to Marc Lepine, the gunman behind a deadly attack against women at a Canadian university in 1989, as a hero and promises a similar shooting at USU, specifically referencing Sarkeesian, attendees at the presentation, and students and staff at the women's center.
No prior threats had been made against USU in the 17 years Vitale has been on campus, he said.
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