UMass Amherst Investigates Racist Emails

Robert LilesCyber Bullying and Online Harassment

Universities have long been places meant to educate, to allow the free exchange of ideas, to provide a means for students to invest in their futures, and to provide a welcoming community. This is a period in many people’s lives to broaden their horizons, venture outside their comfort zones, and progress through a period of personal growth.

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Higher education can also be a time of finding like-minded individuals, shaping self-identity through one’s community, and exploring more of who one is through others more like them. Usually differences of opinion are approached more civilly in this setting. At other times, people often keep their opinions to themselves or to their cliques. There are, however, occasional incidents in which someone escalates their feelings.

Racial Targeting

The University of Massachusetts in Amherst (UMass Amherst) was the site of a recent incident. As with most universities, UMass Amherst hosts organizations meant for a select group of students to help develop friendships, empowerment, and support. In September 2021, blatantly racist emails were sent to Black student organizations on campus.

The anonymous emails stated that the senders “look down on” them, and in reference to their intelligence claimed the Black students were “clearly stupid.” The emails also urged these students to get sterilized. This prompted complaints to university officials, who pledged to investigate the matter, and a note to students from Kumble R. Subbaswamy, chancellor of UMass Amherst.

President Marty Meehan also issued a statement regarding the situation, saying that the “deplorable acts of anti-Black hatred are appalling and disgusting.” Furthermore, he acknowledged the university’s investigation into the matter and stated that “the messages in no way reflect the true character of the UMass community and we have zero tolerance for such behavior.”

As part of its investigation into such racist harassment, UMass Amherst enlisted the help of Stroz Friedberg Digital Forensics to help identify the source of these emails. Not only is this cyberbullying a contemptible act and reflective of the senders’ utter lack of humanity and empathy, but if they are associated with the school they are likely in violation of university harassment policies. If the digital forensics team reveals their identities, penalties could follow.

When Digital Forensics Matter

Unfortunately, hateful incidents like this happen. In today’s digital world many people hide behind a screen to attack others. However, innovations have made it possible to trace emails with the possibility to identify the person or people behind it.

Digital forensics are a useful means to finding evidence of wrongdoing by analyzing digital evidence to follow a perpetrator’s footsteps. This service can be used in such cases as an insider data breach, a disgruntled employee, internal intellectual property and trade secret theft, and criminal activities using computers and mobile devices to identify evidence for prosecution or litigation.

In the university’s case, it could mean termination or expulsion of employees or students, and possibly additional penalties. Digital forensics makes it possible for UMass Amherst to adhere to its harassment policies and punish cyberbullies.

If you feel that digital evidence of wrongdoing or criminality exists and you need to discover it, digital forensics may be for you. Whether you’re a major corporation, a small business, an individual, or an educational institution, we’re here to help. Secure Forensics can extract and pinpoint relevant digital data that can be used against a perpetrator in legal matters.

To learn more or to set up a case, contact an expert today at 800-288-1407.