Student Affairs VP Duffy Offers Updates on E-mail Incident, Diversity Initiatives

(2-8-99) -- Vice President for Student Affairs Kevin P. Duffy wrote the following letter to all members of the Boston College Community on Feb. 5.

Since the tragic hate e-mail incident of Sept. 30, 1998, the University administration has made the investigation of this matter a priority of the utmost importance. On Oct. 7, 1998, my office issued a report to the community on the initial incident and the steps being taken to respond to it and to other related issues. Over the past four months, the University has conducted one of the most comprehensive internal investigations in its history to apprehend the perpetrator. In addition, significant steps have been taken to offer support to the victims, to improve the security of our e-mail system, and to enhance the University's commitment to promote diversity. To keep you fully informed of our many efforts, I offer the following update.

Working in conjunction with Information Technology, the Boston College Police Department (BCPD) confirmed that the message was sent from a specific workstation in the O'Neill Library Computer Facility (OCF) at 11:38 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 1998. Within a day, they initially identified 139 students who were logged into the OCF between 9 p.m. and [midnight] on that evening. They subsequently identified several other students who had been present in the OCF but who had not run their ID cards through the card reader at the entrance. BCPD sought and received outside assistance from the FBI, Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, Middlesex District Attorney and Massachusetts State Police. In total, BCPD conducted 191 documented interviews and expended more than 300 hours investigating all leads.

In addition, each of the victims was interviewed individually by BCPD and offered counseling and whatever other professional assistance she or he desired. Several group meetings and a dinner discussion were also held with senior administrators, the victims and representatives of UGBC. Special police details were assigned in the on-campus residence areas where most of the victims lived. At the request of the students who received the e-mail, BPCD also placed "traps" on their phone lines. Despite all these efforts, the Boston College Police have concluded that it is not possible at this time to identify the sender of the e-mail with the information available. While the investigation remains open, it appears likely that the perpetrator of this cowardly act will not be detected unless new information emerges.

Since this incident, Information Technology has taken action to make it impossible to send e-mail in the future from the computers in O'Neill without logging in one's individual PIN. In addition, the programs on the IBM computers in OCF have been reconfigured to prevent alteration of the information lines which identify the source machine and the sender of e-mails. Other security measures are also currently being reviewed.

In the interest of addressing other concerns raised by students, the following steps have been taken. A new task force of students and administrators has been convened to work with the First Year Experience Office to redesign the diversity programs in Freshman Summer Orientation. The Housing Office has revised the protocol for responding to graffiti in residence halls. Intensive three-day diversity training retreats are being scheduled for this spring for the Student Affairs directors and for all the professional staff in University Counseling Services. These in-depth programs will be used as a prototype for future training in other departments. A new University-wide performance appraisal system is being designed which will include diversity related behavior as one of the core competencies on which all administrators and staff will be annually evaluated. The Office of Human Resources is also expanding and accelerating its diversity training programs for all University employees. The Dean for Student Development Office has already hosted the first meeting of the spring semester of the support services group for gay and lesbian students and will be continuing these meetings in the months ahead.

We will continue to work vigorously to mend our community from the effects of this egregious e-mail incident and to nurture a strong and just Boston College community that is respectful of, and welcoming to, everyone.

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