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Police investigating racist email sent to students and staff at Colorado College

(KKTV)
Published: Mar. 23, 2018 at 4:30 PM MDT
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Colorado Springs police are working to find out who's behind a racist email that was sent to students at Colorado College. It's triggered a debate over racism versus free speech on campus.

The email was sent anonymously to students and staff from a Hushmail account, which is an encrypted email service. It references an incident from 2015 when a student was suspended for posting racial comments on social media.

Someone posted a message on Yik Yak with the hashtag #blackwomenmatter. Another person responded with the comment, "They matter, they're just not hot." Former Colorado College student Thaddeus Pryor was identified as the person behind the post and was suspended for six months by college officials.

The email, with strong white-supremacist tones, also makes derogatory comments about two African-American deans at Colorado College. The college's senior associate dean of students, Rochelle Mason, is named for her involvement in the disciplinary actions taken against Pryor. Mike Edmonds, dean of students and vice president of student life, is also named.

Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler posted a statement on Colorado College's website addressing the language and message in the email. Tiefenthaler calls the email "unwelcome and hateful."

"An unknown person, hiding behind an encrypted email service, sent an extremely hurtful, white-supremacist message to many students, faculty, and staff," said Tiefenthaler. "It targeted wonderful campus leaders who have spent years working to make CC a more inclusive, supportive living and learning community."

It's unclear who is behind the email or if the person is connected to Colorado College in any way. Tiefenthaler says the message resulted in "anger, fear, and hurt" in the CC community.

The impact of the email has even reached Colorado College alumni. Johnny Reed graduated from CC in 2013 but now lives in Las Vegas.

"My initial reaction was pain," said Reed. "I was truthfully heartbroken just to think that such an email with hate speech would be targeted toward students and some of our most honorable leaders of color."

Reed says he wants current and former students to focus on healing, instead of anger.

"What we’re trying to do is actually amplify the humanity of the black community, the LBGQTIA community, and the community of color that actually reside there on Colorado College‘s campus," said Reed. "And, in the process of amplifying their humanity, the humanity of Dean Edmonds and Dean Mason, we simultaneously dispel hate speech and white supremacist dominant culture and language.”

Colorado Springs Police have launched a criminal investigation to find out who sent the email. Charges could include harassment, or something more serious depending on the outcome of the investigation.

You can read the full statement from Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler below:

Dear CC Community, Today an unknown person, hiding behind an encrypted email service, sent an extremely hurtful, white-supremacist message to many students, faculty, and staff. It targeted wonderful campus leaders who have spent years working to make CC a more inclusive, supportive living and learning community. While we’re not sure if this person even knows CC or its many dedicated people, the message was intended to divide us. This person’s message resulted in anger, fear, and hurt in our community. We fully support our colleagues who were targeted. We stand against racism and hatred and will continue to do the work to build a strong, inclusive, understanding community. Shocking, racist incidents have occurred across our nation. And when an unwelcome, hateful message violates our own campus, we must support one another, listen, and work through the pain. We must be respectful, resilient, and caring. We have much to do, and planning is beginning. We will offer healing and dialogue sessions in Block 7; watch for more information. For those who are on campus or need support now, The Butler Center and Chaplain’s Office are available for students, faculty, and staff. The Counseling Center is available for students. The Butler Center: (719) 389-6338, butlercenter@coloradocollege.edu Chaplain’s Office: (719) 389-6638, ahernandezsiegel@coloradocollege.edu or kholbrook@coloradocollege.edu Counseling Center: (719) 389-6093, CounselingCenter@coloradocollege.edu Our community is committed to inclusivity, and to providing an environment where all feel safe, supported, and empowered to learn, teach, and work. Let’s work together toward that goal. Sincerely, Jill