A group of Wake Forest University faculty and staff members received racist and homophobic emails last week that called for a purge of minorities and members of the LGBTQ community, university officials and a campus newspaper say.
Twelve university faculty and staff members received the emails from an unknown source, university police said in a message Tuesday that was distributed to students, faculty and staff members.
“The emails were intentionally inflammatory, using racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and discriminatory language, the university’s message said.
Although the wording of the emails was intimidating and threatening, “no direct and specific threat was made,” Wake Forest said. “At this time, we have had no reports of any students receiving similar emails, and no further emails have been reported since the original twelve.”
The emails were sent to individual and office inboxes associated with the Department of Sociology, the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the LGBTQ Center and Intercultural Center, Wake Forest said.
The Wake Forest Review, an independent newspaper at Wake Forest, reported Tuesday night that the sociology department wrote that the emails “praised the white 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.”
The department continued, “The call to ‘purge’ categories of persons, is a white supremacist call for genocide,” the Wake Forest Review reported.
The sociology department wrote in its response to the emails: “We live in a society plagued by racism, sexism, and gun violence. We will do all we can to carry forward our scholarship, teaching, and our public engagement for social justice.”
Joseph Soares, the chairman of the sociology department, and Angela Mazaris, the director of the university’s LGBTQ Center, couldn’t be reached Wednesday to comment.
Simone Caron, chairwoman of the university’s Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Jose Villabla, WFU’s chief diversity officer, also couldn’t be reached for comment.
In response to faculty and staff concerns, Wake Forest has increased the police and security presence around the buildings where the emails were received, the university said.
“After consulting with state and federal authorities, Wake Forest did not cancel classes or issue an alert to students requiring any change to daily activity,” the university said.
Some sociology professors chose to cancel their classes, said Cheryl Walker, a university spokeswoman.
University police are investigating the emails, with the help of local, state and federal authorities .
Chief Regina Lawson of the Wake Forest police, couldn’t be reached Wednesday for comment.
Alberto Bufalino, the editor-in-chief of the Wake Forest Review, said that the emails are threatening the campus community.
“Many are worrisome, given the targeted nature of these emails towards specific faculty members and departments on our campus,” said Bufalino, a sophomore.
“The faculty are afraid, as this was a clear attack of intimidation targeted at several offices and individuals that work to make students feel more at home on campus,” Bufalino said in an email. “All students are concerned regarding these emails, any attack on our school community is an attack on all of us and the principles that the university is built on.”
The emails follow several other developments that have heightened concerns about racism and discrimination at the university in recent years.
A coalition of students, faculty and staff staged a rally in April and demanded that university officials immediately begin a zero-tolerance policy for white supremacy.
A racist Instagram post on March 22 suggesting Wake Forest University build a wall to separate the institution from Winston-Salem State University sparked anger and concern on both campuses. Wake Forest University officials condemned the post.
In February, Wake Forest acknowledged racist images of students in blackface that were published in past yearbooks. Days later, photographs of Wake Forest students posing in photographs with the Confederate flag were revealed. Two of those students are currently WFU administrators.
In January 2018, a video surfaced of a white female student using a racial slur to describe her residence assistant. That student withdrew from Wake Forest.
In 2014, the predominately white Kappa Alpha fraternity on campus canceled a party off-campus with a theme about black culture. Before the party was cancelled, some white male students wore basketball jerseys, and some white female students wore short skirts with decorative tops to mimic performers in rap videos.
That same year, Imam Khalid Griggs, an associate chaplain at the university, found a bucket of urine in front of his office on campus.