There has been a recent increase in racist, anti-Black incidents at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, according to a top school official.
The hate incidents are all being targeted at African American and Black students, the vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion said in a message to the campus community.
Dr. Nefertiti A. Walker, who also serves as the school's chief diversity officer, said a racist email was sent to numerous Black-centered student groups that consisted of "vile, blatantly racist, and violently offensive" content.
In addition, Walker said there have been other acts of anti-Black hate imposed on the UMass Amherst community through the “Contact Us” online forms of registered student organizations.
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Another incident shared by Walker involved someone driving by a group of Black students and yelling an anti-Black, racist epithet.
"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," Walker said in her email. "We condemn all acts of anti-Black racism and will work to diminish their intent to cause harm to Black students on campus."
Walker said the school is investigating the hateful acts. The UMass Amherst Police Department is working with the school's Information Technology department to uncover the identity of the person who sent the hateful emails.
"This exhaustive investigation is ongoing," Walker said.
The school has also created opportunities to support the students directly impacted by these incidents, according to Walker, which include:
- Administrators from multiple campus units have followed up and connected the students to campus resources
- Student affairs and campus life administrators have held office hours dedicated to giving affected students space to gather for dialogue and support
- All students impacted have received emails, calls and outreach from leaders within the administration in multiple campus units to dialogue, receive support and create opportunities for healing
- Staff working with student groups targeted have been updated and provided direction on how to support impacted students
"We stand in solidarity and support of our Black students, and in opposition to any anti-Black racism," Walker said, while urging the community to report any such incidents. "Please continue to report these hateful acts, even if the act is not directed to you. Active Bystander engagement is important to eradicating racism on our campus."
Bias incidents should be reported through the Office of Equity and Inclusion. Once the incident is reported, it is processed and managed in collaboration with campus leadership, Walker said.
"All administrative units work in collaboration to ensure our campus is safe, respectful and inclusive," she added.
UMass Amherst students who have experienced or witnessed biased activity may seek support and be referred to the Dean of Students Office through the Student Support Request & Referral online form. Additional support resources can be found here for anyone impacted by anti-Black racism on the school's campus.
Walker said the school's priority is both to support impacted students and investigate these incidents to the fullest extent. Both processes are ongoing, she said.