- UMass Amherst reportedly hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate racist emails sent to students.
- The emails included racist sentiments about the intelligence and behavior of Black people.
- UMass Amherst has a rich history of influential Black alumni and professors.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) has hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate racist emails sent to Black students, the school said in a press statement on September 27.
The emails contained racist sentiments about the intelligence, appearance, and behavior of Black people, including that Black students should consider “getting sterilized,” according to a screenshot of the letter that was shared by the civil rights attorney Ben Crump on Instagram on September 25.
A purported photo of the email was also shared on Twitter on September 24 by Bishop Talbert Swan, a civil rights activist and the president of the Greater Springfield chapter of the NAACP, who said that his son was a senior studying architecture at the school.
—Bishop Talbert Swan (@TalbertSwan) September 25, 2021
The letter was sent to students who were members of Black student groups and was signed by the “Umass Coalition for a better society,” the local news station WWLP reported.
UMass Amherst’s Black Student Union (BSU) released an Instagram statement on September 25 saying that it was “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.”
The group said that they received the email in early September, although they did not specify a specific date.
“We are angry. We are hurt. We are tired,” the group wrote in the statement.
—Students of Color for Public Health (@scphatbusph) September 29, 2021
Nefertiti Walker, the Vice Chancellor and Chief Diversity Officer at UMass Amherst, condemned the emails in a September 23 statement on UMass Amherst’s website, calling them “vile, blatantly racist, and violently offensive.” She also announced that the UMass Police Department had begun working with UMass IT to uncover the email sender’s identity.
Walker, who did not respond to a request for comment, added that the university had been made aware of other alleged acts of anti-Black hate on campus, including “an incident involving the offender driving by and yelling an anti-Black racist epithet at a group of Black students,” she wrote.
It was unclear when that other incident occurred, but the BSU referenced a circumstance matching those details in its Instagram statement and said it took place in late August.
The BSU also criticized UMass Amherst’s response to alleged incidents like these, writing in its statement that “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.'”
On September 27, the official UMass Amherst Instagram account shared a statement that they said Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswammy had sent to the community.
In the statement, Subbaswammy announced the university was launching a “full-scale investigation into the source of the emails” and hiring the cybersecurity firm Stroz Friedberg Digital Forensics, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The same firm was hired by Facebook in 2018 to audit Cambridge Analytica, according to The New York Times. Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, shuttered that year following the news that the company harvested data from 50 million Facebook.
“We stand with our students who have been victimized,” Subbaswammy wrote in the statement. “When the perpetrator of any of these acts is identified, the full weight of the university’s disciplinary and legal apparatus will be brought to bear.”
He added: “I want to assure you that we are committed to doing everything in our power to support our Black students at this difficult time.”
When reached for comment, a university representative said the investigation was ongoing and directed Insider to Subbaswammy’s statement.
The university’s BSU and the Amherst Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.