A large group of Black-first-year students at the University of Pennsylvania were included in a series of racist GroupMe text messages. The title of the group chat was labeled “Nigger Lynching.” The messages included racial slurs and invitations to lynchings. A student at the University of Oklahoma was temporarily suspended due to alleged involvement in the incident. But the president of the University of Oklahoma stated he believed the messages originated elsewhere. It was unclear how the originators obtained the cellphone numbers of Black students at Penn.
Although the origins of the messages appear to have no connection whatsoever to the university, Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, quickly voiced her disgust. Her statement is printed below:
“We are absolutely appalled that earlier today Black freshman students at Penn were added to a racist GroupMe account that appears to be based in Oklahoma. The account itself is totally repugnant: it contains violent, racist and thoroughly disgusting images and messages. This is simply deplorable. Our police and information security staff are trying to locate the exact source and to determine if any steps can be taken to block the account. Staff in the Office of Vice Provost for University Life are working nonstop with us and our students to determine exactly who has been targeted and how many, and we are doing everything in our power to provide the necessary support and will continue to do so. The University is also taking every step possible to address both the source of the racist material and the impact it has had on Black students on campus.
“This is absolutely vile material and completely offensive to everyone on our campus. We are both angry and saddened that it was directed to our students or to anyone. The people responsible for this are reprehensible. We have increased campus safety and are reaching out to support the affected students in every way we can, and want them to know that the entire Penn community stands with them.
“We must reiterate how absolutely essential it is to the core values of our community, and also to the well-being of our society and world, that all persons be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. The racism of this GroupMe message is profoundly inimical to what we stand for as a university. We will take every step possible to counteract its appalling bias. And we all stand together in solidarity with our Black students who have been so terribly targeted.”