Wake Forest University Responds to Hate Emails Sent to Diversity-Related Employees

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Wake Forest University (WFU) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina is investigating what it calls “malicious” emails sent to 12 professors and staff members in diversity-related positions.

The anonymous messages, which were sent on Sept. 10, “praised the [W]hite male founding fathers, dismissed our undergraduates with ugly vile language, and called for our land to be ‘purged’ of people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community,” according to an announcement from the sociology department and obtained by independent newspaper The Wake Forest Review.

The messages were sent to email addresses associated with the sociology department; women’s, gender, and sexuality studies department; the intercultural center; the LGBTQ+ center; and the office of diversity and inclusion, according to a statement by WFU President Nathan Hatch. Seven emails were sent to specific employees and five to department inboxes.

News of the emails broke on Sept. 17, the same day Hatch issued a public statement in response to student and employee concerns. While the emails were “steeped in the vitriol of [W]hite supremacy and nationalism,” they contained “no actionable threat or detailed a specific attack on our campus,” he stated.

Campus security consulted with outside law enforcement “including the FBI’s leading experts on domestic terrorism, [W]hite nationalism, and hate crimes” on Sept. 11 before deciding the messages did not warrant enough of a threat to cancel classes, according to the statement. WFU is working with local, state, and national authorities on an investigation of the messages and to identify a possible sender(s).

It is unclear why the administration did not release an earlier statement regarding the emails, though Hatch states in the Sept. 17 announcement that WFU employees “have worked to protect everyone on our campus while striving to preserve the integrity of the investigation.”

The sociology department, which stated in its announcement that the emails’ call for purging certain populations amounts to a call for genocide, canceled its classes for the week “to better the security of the department,” according to The Wake Forest Review.

In Hatch’s statement to the community, he says WFU acknowledges “the questions posed by some of our students: can you see us, can you hear us, do you understand our lived experiences?” in the wake of the hateful messages. He also states that WFU’s decision to continue operations as usual should not be interpreted as dismissive of the emotional magnitude of the emails and pledges to “revise protocols where necessary.”

“These emails have hurt, scared, threatened, angered, and confused many on our campus in different ways,” Hatch states. “This cuts at the core of who we are at Wake Forest and impacts us all.”