Four first-year Harvard Law School students said the university failed to protect them against a series of racist and insulting text messages sent allegedly by another student.
The students reported that they alerted the dean of the law student about offensive texts that included “racist taunts about affirmative action and intelligence” and “body-shaming” language, along with “other personal insults.”
According to BuzzFeed, the students believed that they were targeted by an anonymous person because of their race. They allege they know the identity of the offender who targeted Blacks and female students between December 2018 and March 2019.
“You know you don’t belong here. You’re just here because of affirmative action. Why even try,” the sender wrote. “Everyone thinks you’re a joke. but I guess your section is lucky to have a curve boost.”
Mo Light, a Black male, was one of the first recipients in the law school to receive the messages.
“My initial reaction was, ‘Wow, this is upsetting,’ but it’s not surprising, given that this is just living while black,’” Light told Buzzfeed. “I won’t say that the others are not proudly black, but … we wear our blackness on our sleeves, and you know where we stand on controversial issues all the time because we’re not ones to mince our words.”
There are reportedly only nine Black students in the Harvard Law school of the 80 students in that particular section of students. Some 21 students, make up other ethnicities, according to Buzzfeed.
“In the era of school shootings, in this era of white supremacy, really, and the violence and anger that goes along with that, I think it was our duty as students to bring this forward,” said Chelsea Rooney, a white student told the website.
“It would have been really irresponsible for us to receive these messages, know that someone is exhibiting really bizarre behavior, and not say anything.”
Another student, Chris Volcy, said the communications made her feel “unsafe [and] uncomfortable going to class.”
“It was all we could think about … all we could talk about, all we were focusing on, instead of our schoolwork,” said Volcy.
Lights feels like he and Volcy were specially targeted with derogatory messages because they are vocal black students.
The students said the texts left them feeling vulnerable and efforts to report the text attacks allegedly fell on deaf ears.
Marcia Lynn Sells, the Dean of Students for Harvard Law School, who is Black, denied that the messages were threatening in nature, saying they did not “threaten[ed] any type of violence.” But Sells contends that an investigation into the matter has been launched.
While Rooney is white, she too was targeted and received a text calling her a “horseface from Texas” who should “gtfoh”.
But she said her efforts to get the administration to act on any of the offensive messages went nowhere fast.
“Throughout March, we emailed the dean’s office multiple times, tried to set up meetings, and it was just very bizarre,” said Rooney. “The response was just like, ‘We can’t do anything, sorry that happened… I cannot believe that an institution would not take action.”
Another student agreed it was a “struggle to work” with administrators.
“All we want is for them to help us, to make sure that we feel as though the school is actually doing something in our interest,” said the fourth student. “And yet it’s really difficult to believe that … when they won’t even address our questions head on.”
Another woman who asked to remain anonymous said her text message said she was a “fat overweight pig,” who “pissed off so many partners at receptions [apparently] youve been black listed at firms.”
The school has enlisted the outside firm of Hogan Lovells to investigate the reports. But the school reportedly told the students their hands were tied because they couldn’t pinpoint the culprit.
The dean’s office has since released this statement about the situation.
“We condemn in the strongest terms these messages and all communications that are intended to demean people,” the statement read. “Such messages transgress our Community Principles, which commit every student, faculty and staff member to, among other things, mutual respect.”
“The fact that they made this determination without allowing us to kind of look at the evidence and kind of actually scrutinize who they interviewed and what questions they asked, it’s kind of hard for us to accept that finding,” Volcy said.
The students have since launched a Change.org petition asked that the full investigative report be released, “to see why the school decided to let us attend classes” with their alleged harasser.
“For many people of color, you come to Harvard running a race with weights tied to your ankles,” said Light.