University News

UMass Launches Comprehensive Investigation into Racist Emails, Hires Leading Cyber Security Firm to Assist

Following the recent disturbing, racist emails sent to Black student organizations on campus, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy announced that the campus will launch a full-scale investigation into the source of the emails and that the university has secured the services of Stroz Friedberg Digital Forensics, a leading national firm in cyber security.

“While we are mindful of the challenges in determining the source of anonymous emails such as these, we are confident that Stroz Friedberg, with its extensive expertise and technical capacity, will methodically follow every lead in pursuit of the contemptible individual or individuals responsible,” Subbaswamy said in a message to the campus community.

The source of the emails could be someone who is part of the campus community or someone who is not at all affiliated with the university. If the investigation determines that the source is someone in the UMass community, that person or persons will face severe university sanctions, and evidence will also be shared with law enforcement officials. If the source is from outside the university community, the information gathered during the investigation will be also shared with law enforcement for possible criminal prosecution.

Persons with information related to the emails can provide it to the investigation confidentially by using the UMass Police Department’s anonymous witness form on its website.

Subbaswamy said while the investigation is ongoing, the campus will fight back by hosting educational opportunities and taking some action steps to promote understanding and the university’s ongoing commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. These initiatives are:

  • Black Joy, Black Healing and Black Justice Forum – A forum led by the Center of Racial Justice and Youth Engaged Research (CRJ) and sponsored by the Office of Equity and Inclusion on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, 5:30 to 8 p.m., location to be determined. The forum will bring together Black students from across the UMass Amherst campus for an evening of community, love and kinship against a backdrop of ongoing anti-Black hatred that will never define or deter us. Food, music and space for healing, joy and reflection will be led by students and faculty of CRJ.
  • Launching the Black Advisory Council – A team of faculty, students, administrators and staff charged with developing recommendations to the Office of Equity and Inclusion that will improve the experiences of Black students, faculty and staff on campus. More details to come. 
  • Increased funding for the Center of Racial Justice (CRJ). An opportunity to invest in our internal expertise on racial justice and support the expansion of their capacity to advise on UMass Amherst-specific racial injustices so that our Black community can feel safe and thrive on campus.

When an act of hate occurs in the campus community a comprehensive response protocol is activated. This protocol includes meetings with those directly affected, deployment of support services, communication to members of the impacted student organization, residential community or academic department, and notification of UMPD.

“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,” Subbaswamy said in the campus message. “I want to assure you that we are committed to doing everything in our power to support our Black students at this difficult time and will spare no measure in our investigation to determine the perpetrator(s) of these incidents.”