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Black students, organizations at UMass Amherst receive follow-up racist email

The University of Massachusetts  Amherst campus at night.
Creative Commons
The University of Massachusetts Amherst campus at night.

Officials at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are denouncing a follow-up racist email sent to Black students and organizations on campus.

The email, sent Tuesday, refers to Black students as “animals” and taunts the lack of progress on an investigation into a similar racist email sent in the fall semester.

“It's funny how the ‘investigation’ into our group went nowhere. Wonder why? It's because we are the police, we are in the administration...” the email reads.

UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy issued a statement calling the sender of the email a “coward” and assuring students both the previous and current email are under investigation.

“I realize how frustrating the slow progress of the investigation is and how profoundly disturbing it is that our Black students have been targeted again. I am angry and frustrated as well,” he said. “I will thoroughly assess the status of our investigation and will inquire with law enforcement agencies to make sure that we are doing everything possible to bring the perpetrator of these hateful acts to justice.”

Subbaswamy added if the sender is a student or employee on campus, they will face “severe university sanctions” including expulsion or employment termination. He will also provide the name of the sender to Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan.

The racist email also made claims that a group of people involved in sending the emails interfered with the investigation by sending “dummy data” to forensic investigators and claiming to have connections within law enforcement and the administration.

In a statement, Sullivan called it a “mistruth.”

“The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office is an active partner with the UMass Police Department on this investigation, which has been, and will continue to be, comprehensive and thorough as we follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said.

He called the email “inflammatory” and said it is meant to “sow discord and division" within the campus community.

“Free speech is rightly held dear in this country, but it does not permit hate speech that threatens and intimidates in a way that interferes with a right to education,” Sullivan said.

Amilcar Shabazz, a professor of history and Africana studies at UMass, called the email "frightening" and reflective of pervasive racism. Shabazz noted the email's claims that the racist group has members in the police and campus administration.

"You have to look at that mindset that can ... pronounce their dominance in that way, and then you turn around to look at the powerlessness of anybody on this campus to respond to it, and you realize they're right," Shabazz said Wednesday. "They're actually right."

Nirvani Williams contributed to this report.

Updated: May 4, 2022 at 4:45 PM EDT
This story has been updated to include a comment from Prof. Amilcar Shabazz.
Elizabeth Román edits daily news stories at NEPM as managing editor. She is working to expand the diversity of sources in our news coverage and is also exploring ways to create more Spanish-language news content.
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