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Racist email circulates at UMass Amherst

Photo courtesy of John Solem via UMass Amherst Collective
UMass Amherst campus.

**TRIGGER WARNING** This article contains mentions of racism and racial violence, specifically directed towards the Black community. 

An anonymous racist email was sent out to Black student organizations at UMass Amherst during the week of Sept. 25. The contents of the email, which have been circulating around social media, are described by UMass Amherst’s Office of Equity and Inclusion as “vile, blatantly racist, and violently offensive.”

This email is not the first racist act that UMass Amherst has experienced since the start of the semester.

Vice-Chancellor and Chief Diversity Officer at UMass Amherst, Dr. Nefertiti Walker, stated: “In addition, there have been other acts of anti-Black hate imposed on our community through the ‘Contact Us’ online forms of registered student organizations, as well as an incident involving the offender driving by and yelling an anti-Black racist epithet at a group of Black students.”

Those behind the email said that they were a part of the “UMass Coalition for a Better Society” and the contents of the email included racist stereotypes and epithets.

**TRIGGER WARNING** This section of the article contains a quotation from the original email, which contains extreme anti-Black language.

According to WWLP, part of the email read: “We look down upon you, we instantly know in all manners from your language which most of you still speak in some broken form of Ebonics or to ghetto-speak to where your from (third-world sewers in America bought and paid for by the u.s taxpayer) to how you live (like hoodrats) to how you appear (fro hair, big lips, black skin) you are different.”

The Black Student Union at the school told Boston 25 that the recent email has been sent to other black groups on campus starting around Sept. 8.

“We, the Black Student Union, are absolutely appalled with the disgusting, racist email that we, along with other black student organizations on campus, have received from an anti-black group of people. We are angry. We are hurt. We are tired. And although we are disappointed, we are certainly not surprised…” stated the Black Student Union in an Instagram post addressing the email.

The organization also expressed their outrage at the administration for their slow reaction and lack of response to the situation:

“The incident involving offenders driving by and yelling anti-Black racist epithets at a group of Black Students, occurred late August, before the semester had even started. Black organizations started receiving racist emails as early as the second week of September. It took the university almost a month from the initial anti-Black racist incidents, to acknowledge these instances. The university’s lengthy response time to racial incidents compared to their rapid response to non-racial incidents is not reflective of a university that claims to be ‘committed in policy, principle, and practice to maintaining an environment which prohibits discriminatory behavior and provides equal opportunity for all persons.’”

This quote was pulled directly from UMass Amherst’s Black Student Union’s Instagram page, @umassbsu. Please see their Instagram page for their full statement addressing the situation.

Dr. Nefertiti Walker stated in an email to the university: “All of these anti-Black racist acts run in stark contrast to who we strive to be, which is a campus where all students are welcomed and feel a strong sense of belonging. We condemn all acts of anti-Black racism and will work to diminish their intent to cause harm to Black students on campus.”

An active investigation into who sent the emails is ongoing at the university. According to Boston 25, UMass Amherst has hired cyber security firm Stroz Friedberg Inc. to investigate the source of the email.

The chancellor of UMass Amherst, Kumble R. Subbaswamy, wrote in a letter to students: “While we are mindful of the challenges of determining the source of anonymous emails such as these, we are confident that Stroz Friedberg, with its extensive expertise and technical capacity, will methodically follow every lead in pursuit of the contemptible individual or individuals responsible.”

UMass President Marty Meehan stated in a press release about the situation: “The blatantly racist emails recently sent to Black student organizations at UMass Amherst and other deplorable acts of anti-Black hatred are appalling and disgusting. While UMass Amherst is still trying to identify the source of these messages, we do know that the messages in no way reflect the true character of the UMass community and we have zero tolerance for such behavior.”

Meehan also stated that his “team in the Office of the President is working with UMass Amherst to investigate and to identify the individuals and/or organizations responsible for these hate-ridden messages, and hold them accountable wherever they are.”

UMass Boston Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco stated in an email to the UMass Boston community, “We stand in solidarity with our colleagues at UMass Amherst in resolutely rejecting racism in all its forms and declare that racism, hatred, and intolerance stand in complete opposition to a humanist civilization and to the elemental requirements for the practice of democratic citizenship.”

The email came hours before the Chancellor sent another email to the UMass Boston community to alert them of racist hate speech that was written in a couple classrooms on campus.

He stated in the letter, “Let me be clear: Racist actions on our campus will be thoroughly investigated and those found responsible will be disciplined under the UMass Boston code of conduct and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There is no place for racism and hatred on our campus, and acts that promote such vile and insidious sentiments will not be tolerated.”

Investigations surrounding this incident are ongoing, and the Mass Media will update as more information becomes available. Chancellor Suárez-Orozco encourages any students that have any information about the incident to report it to the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX.

The chancellor’s email also stated: “If you have been subject to hateful speech or actions, you are encouraged to file a complaint; contact the director of the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Brigid Harrington at [email protected]; or contact the Dean of Students at [email protected].”

For additional resources, please see below:

Office of Civil Rights and Title IX: https://www.umb.edu/crtix

File a complaint with Office of Civil Rights and Title IX: https://cm.maxient.com/reportingform.php?UMassBoston&layout_id=2

Director of the Office of the Civil Rights and Title IX, Brigid Harrington: [email protected]
Dean of Students: [email protected]

About the Contributor
Genevieve Santilli, News Writer