Campus Community Updated on the Investigation of Racist Emails
The following email was sent to the campus community by Christopher Misra, vice chancellor for information services and chief information officer, and Nefertiti Walker, vice chancellor for diversity, equity & inclusion, to provide an update on the ongoing investigation to determine the source of anti-Black racist emails sent to members of Black student organizations in September 2021.
December 8, 2021
Dear Campus Community,
We are writing today to offer an update on the ongoing investigation to determine the source of anti-Black racist emails that were sent to members of Black student organizations in September.
As you may recall, on September 27 the Chancellor announced that the university had retained the services of Stroz Friedberg Digital Forensics, a leading national firm in cybersecurity, to conduct the investigation. Stroz Friedberg investigators have been working closely with UMass Police, IT and other campus entities for more than two months, conducting an assessment of the hateful targeting of the UMass community across multiple sources, including dark websites, and leveraging custom tools in an attempt to pinpoint the origin of the emails. The process is painstaking and time consuming, and to date no perpetrator has been identified. The investigators caution that in cases such as the one involving our campus, it is not uncommon for the results of a cyber inquiry to be inconclusive and that it is possible that, despite their exhaustive investigation, they ultimately may be unable to identify the source of the racist emails. The potential challenges investigators cite are many, including the numerous free email accounts offered by providers, privacy rules and encryption software.
IT and UMPD will continue to work closely with Stroz Friedberg to follow up on any data or leads if and when they are discovered. In the meantime, to enhance students' privacy and limit outside access to student email, IT has made changes to People Finder, the campus’s online directory. We have also worked with email providers to enhance email services and to review existing configurations for improved security for individuals and student organizations that use the @umass.edu domain and other domains managed by campus IT.
We again ask that anyone who may have information related to the emails contact the UMPD. If you choose to do so confidentially, you can use the UMass Police Department’s anonymous witness form.
We want to assure you that, despite the frustrations encountered thus far, this investigation remains one of the highest priorities for the campus, and as we have new information, we will provide additional updates.
Vice Chancellor for Information Services and Chief Information Officer
Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion