A disturbing and racist email was sent out to members of various Black organizations on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus and sparked outrage among students. Yesterday, University officials released a statement condemning the uptick in anti-Black incidents.
"I write to you today in response to an increase in anti-Black racist incidents happening on our campus, all of which are being targeted at African American and Black students." the statement from Vice Chancellor Nefertiti Walker read. "To begin, an anti-Black racist email was sent to numerous Black-centered student groups. The content of these emails is vile, blatantly racist, and violently offensive."
The email in question was addressed to "Black Students of our campus," and signed by "The UMass Coalition for a better society." The email begins by stating that it was written from a non-student account to avoid being "victimized by the predictable cries of 'racism' and not being 'inclusive.'"
The email was allegedly sent out in several rounds starting on September 8 up until September 17. The first email was sent out to students in the National Society of Black Engineers after their first interest meeting.
The email continues on with disturbingly racist sentiments including discussion about sterilization, removal of gonads to erase DNA, among other racist epithets.
In the statement released by Walker, she stated that the University launched a multi-unit collaborative investigation into the racist incidents. It also stated that the University is working with the University of Massachusetts Police Department and UMass IT to identify the sender of the racist email.
Many students are disgusted with the rise of race-related incidents on campus and many are taking to social media to grow awareness of the problem. Zach Steward, a junior studying African American Studies and Legal Studies at UMass Amherst, doesn't believe the university cares about minority student's safety.
"Frankly I don't feel that the university is doing enough. I don't feel as though they care enough because if they cared then they would have told us immediately as soon as it happened," Steward told Newsweek. "They would've made sure that students felt, and were, safe and secure but clearly they don't and clearly the university never learned from what happened in 2018."
Steward explained that when he was a freshman, the university was made aware of racist graffiti painted around a residence hall called Melville Hall. Steward recalls the words "hang," "Melville" and the n-word being drawn in the hall following an etching of a confederate flag a month later.
The university followed up with a statement that the UMPD was looking into the incidents but that they needed students to come forward with any information. He told Newsweek that it shouldn't be students' responsibility.
"They never learned from that so they just allowed this hate to be bred consistently over and over again," Steward continued. "So now we're at the point where this group feels comfortable enough to say these things and it could potentially turn to violence."
Steward believes the university only released a statement because so many students were speaking up about the incidents on campus and because of an op-ed he published with the campus newspaper Amherst Wire titled "UMass: Cut the BS."
"My assumption is that they were trying to keep it under the rug for as long as possible," Steward told Newsweek.
Other users on Twitter tagged the official UMass Amherst Twitter account with screenshots of the email and received identical replies with the link to Walker's official statement.
"This school continues to sugarcoat and sweep constant racist attacks under the rug. y'all need to do better," one student wrote on Twitter.
"you're on the clock! This is gross," another user wrote. "And your track record with this type of s--t matches. Y'all remember when the "N" word was popping up on people's dorm doors in Southwest and we couldn't even get a meeting with administration? What y'all gon do now?"
But the uptick in racist incidents at colleges in universities is not only a problem at UMass Amherst, it spans across the country. At Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, two Black students reported having a banana taped to their dorm room door. The campus organization Men of Distinction called out the college and asked for a more public response from college officials.
That call followed with a public statement from Interim President Carroll D. Stevens who wrote that these incidents "do not align with our values as a college community" and that people in the community need to "learn not only how to avoid inflicting these harms but also to intervene actively when we witness them within our community."
At Albion College in Michigan, students are calling for the removal of the college president Mathew B. Johnson over "bullying" students and staff. The petition launched by an anonymous student accuses him of ignoring POC students who were being harassed in their dorms. The petition states that the president took little to no action until there were campus-wide protests.
Many university students at multiple schools have come forward saying that releasing a generic statement with resources is not helpful in finding an overall solution. Many are tired of receiving statements from university officials and are fighting for harsher consequences from students who commit these racist acts.
"UMass does not care about marginalized students because if they did, they wouldn't allow these things to continue," Steward said. "They would rule out the specific problems that allow these things to keep happening but they choose not to. They choose to look the other way."
Newsweek reached out to University of Massachusetts Amherst but did not receive comment in time for publication.