The student newspaper at Vanderbilt University, the Vanderbilt Hustler, reported that some students on the Tennessee campus also got messages. Ariana Fowler, the Vanderbilt student body president, said she believes 10 or 11 fellow students were added to the group without their consent, including black freshmen and one white senior who is a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at Vanderbilt. “It has been making my blood boil,” she said. “Not knowing who is taking part in this is what is most frightening.”
Elizabeth Latt, a spokeswoman for Vanderbilt, said officials are trying to track down students who may have gotten messages but added Wednesday evening, “Other than two white students to whom the messages were forwarded and who brought them to the attention of the Dean of Students office, we have no firsthand knowledge of students’ receiving the messages. We have heard from other students that they know of students who received them and we’ve reached out to the seven for whom we have names, but we’ve not gotten any responses so far. We’re continuing to look into the matter.”
At the University of Pennsylvania, the messages were not only shocking to students because of the slurs and racist images — they included a photograph of people hanging from nooses, and a “daily lynching” calendar — but because they were appearing on their own cellphones.
There was no compromise of the University of Pennsylvania directory or data systems, according to the university, and no students at the school were involved.
A spokesperson for Microsoft wrote in an email, “As soon as we became aware of the chats taking place on GroupMe, which violated our terms of service, we took action and removed the chats. We’re investigating to determine which user accounts will be suspended.”
Some of the messages to University of Pennsylvania students included references to President-elect Donald Trump, as well, with “Daddy Trump” as a nickname and “Trump is Love” as the name of one group.
Those references, as well as a rise in threats and slurs directed at minorities nationwide in the days after the presidential election, led more than 7,500 people to sign an alumni petition, and hundreds of faculty members to sign a separate letter, asking Trump to condemn the messages.
A spokeswoman for Trump, who is an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania, did not immediately return a message seeking comment. In a “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday, Trump said that he had not been aware of such incidents and was sorry to hear it, and he directed a message to his supporters: “Stop it.”
The messages also included a reference to Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a fraternity whose University of Oklahoma chapter was shut down last year after video surfaced of members chanting a racist fraternity song with references to lynching.
Two members of that SAE chapter are no longer enrolled at the university, according to Corbin Wallace, a spokesman for the school.
Wallace said over the weekend that there did not appear to be any connection between former members of the fraternity and the University of Pennsylvania incident.
Brandon Weghorst, a spokesman for SAE’s international headquarters, said Wednesday in an email, “We are unaware of any connection between these groups and Sigma Alpha Epsilon active members or former members. Sigma Alpha Epsilon does not condone nor tolerate any type of racial intolerance, discrimination or hateful speech. Our members are expected to adhere to our mission and values throughout their life.”
After the Oklahoma incident, the fraternity launched a dramatic initiative to encourage diversity and try to eliminate racism at chapters nationally.
One of the people in Oklahoma being investigated in the UPenn incident includes a student from the University of Oklahoma who is no longer enrolled, Wallace said. President David L. Boren said in a statement, “As our university has clearly demonstrated in the past, we have zero tolerance at this university for those who would engage in racism. We will maintain at our university a strong sense of community that values and respects every single student.”
Faculty leaders said 150 or more black freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania received the messages. A spokesman for the university did not confirm that number.
The Daily Pennsylvanian, which first reported the story, said that a student at Tulsa Community College had been placed on interim academic suspension in connection with the incident. The school’s president, Leigh Goodson, wrote in a statement to the campus community that she was “deeply disappointed” and explained that the interim suspension “falls under TCC’s Student Code of Conduct Policy which prohibits behavior that threatens the mental health or safety of students or could be perceived as threatening or bullying.”
A message from University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann and other leaders of the campus community closed with this:
We are working to prevent this type of access in the future, and Penn Police are continuing to work with the FBI and their counterparts in Oklahoma to bring the investigation to completion. In one other development, the University of Oklahoma announced today that a student identified as being involved in the incident is no longer enrolled at that university. We continue to support all affected students and underscore our outrage at such reprehensible behavior, whether it originates within or outside our campus. We must unite as a community to heal, reach out, support and understand one another in such challenging times.