Update on University Response to E-Mail Harassment Incident

(10-7-98) -- On Wednesday, Oct. 7, Vice President for Student Affairs Kevin P. Duffy issued the following communication to all Boston College students, faculty and staff.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, October 1, University Housing administrators and Boston College Police were informed that 13 undergraduate students had received e-mail messages that were explicitly racist, sexist and homophobic. That morning Boston College started a comprehensive investigation to identify the sender of these e-mails, and that investigation remains our Police Department's top priority.

In addition to utilizing campus technology specialists and Boston College detectives, the University has requested and been offered the assistance of the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office and the Civil Rights Division of the State Attorney General's Office. Boston College Police have also requested the assistance of the computer crime experts from the Regional Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The results of this investigation to date are as follows. It has been confirmed that the messages were sent from a specific workstation in the O'Neill Computer Facility at 11:38 p.m. on Wednesday, September 30th. The sender code was significantly altered, and it appears that another student's name was fraudulently entered. Specialists from Boston College and outside agencies are currently working to confirm the true identity of the sender.

We have also determined that 139 persons used the OCF between 9 p.m. and midnight on Wednesday, September 30th. Investigators are interviewing students and employees who may have been present around the time of the e-mail transmittal and who may have seen the sender. Any person with information that could help in the investigation is urged to contact Lieutenant Detective Eugene Neault of the Boston College Police Department at extension 2-4743.

Should the sender of the e-mail message be positively identified, he or she will be suspended immediately from the University as a threat to the campus community, and internal judicial action will be initiated. If it is determined that the sender also violated state law, the University will pursue prosecution under the appropriate statute.

At the Town Meeting held on Thursday evening, October 1, there was a tremendous expression of unity by all who were present in the condemnation of this act against our community and our highest values.

Concerns were also expressed about incidents involving graffiti that occurred this semester and which allegedly "were not reported" or about which "nothing was done." Keyes and Walsh Halls were cited as locations of some of these occurrences.

My office has reviewed all incidents of offensive graffiti that have been reported since August 31st in our residence halls. Of the 11 incidents reported, six involved sexual obscenities, four were homophobic and one was both sexually obscene and homophobic. All were investigated by University Housing, and in all reported cases Boston College Police immediately responded, took photographs and interviewed potential witnesses. Housing sent letters to all residents of the floor and/or building and convened floor or building meetings. This is the established response to all such incidents.

All such incidents are logged by the Boston College Police Department, and this log is open to public review in the department's Rubenstein Hall office. The Heights reviews this log on a weekly basis and reports their summary in the "police blotter" column. The University administration is most willing to work with students to develop a mechanism to disseminate such information more broadly.

In response to some of the other issues raised at the Town Meeting, I would like to inform you of the following:

Support for victims of discriminatory harassment

Counseling is available to all students who are victims of discrimination, and has been offered to all those who received the e-mail message last week. In addition, resources are available to students through the University Harassment Counselor, UGBC, the Discriminatory Harassment Network and the Office of the Dean for Student Development.

Security enhancement

The Campus Police Department has added additional patrols to ensure the physical safety of community members.

Protection for gay, lesbian and bisexual community members

The University has promulgated and strictly enforces anti-discrimination policies that protect the rights of all gay, lesbian and bisexual members of the community. Support systems for gays, lesbians and bisexuals are also maintained through the Office of Dean for Student Development which regularly convenes meetings of faculty, administrators and students to improve support for gay, lesbian and bisexual students. The first meeting of that group in Fall '98 is being planned for later this month. Persons interested in working with this group are welcome to contact the dean.

Diversity programs for faculty and students

Diversity training is an important part of orientation for faculty. Expanded student input into this programming would be welcomed. The Summer Orientation Programs for incoming freshmen includes three segments on hate crimes and racial issues. These topics are also part of the curriculum in the Freshman Cornerstone Courses that were initiated this year.

PIN security

The security of Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) is the responsibility of the individual holder. PIN numbers are issued to each community member and are not divulged to others, whether students, administrators, faculty or staff. Some students do share PINs with roommates and friends. Others log on to e-mail or the Internet and either let others use their computer or fail to log off completely. These actions jeopardize the security of the system and that of the individual PIN holder and provide the opportunity for misuse and abuse. We urge students to review their own practices in this area and to not reveal their PINs to anyone. New numbers are issued on request to any member of the community on presentation of positive BC identification.

At both the faculty and student convocations in early September, President Leahy announced that diversity and racial relations were among his most important priorities for the academic year, and he listed several steps that he has implemented with a goal of making Boston College a more welcoming community.

The hateful e-mail that was generated last week was a cowardly attack on each and every member of that community. While anger and sadness are an appropriate response, we should not permit this attack to achieve its obvious goal of creating division among us, of impeding progress, and of diverting us from our true purpose--to build a community in which every member is respected and treated justly. In this we will not fail.

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