Becky Swig also contributed to this article.
An anonymous email sent to some Wake Forest students titled “you are not safe here” issued certain demands regarding campus life. A blog post with the same message was also made public, and the full message can be found here. The email and blog post circulated among students on the evening of Sunday, April 8 and quotes Dante’s Inferno and references the Sixth Circle of Hell.
The email makes five specific demands. The first calls for “a true democratization of politics,” meaning rethinking the way politics are discussed on campus. The second demand is that ideas, “not just our speech” becomes free, and references the Code of Conduct policies at Wake Forest. They also call for better treatment of campus employees, a complete end to Greek life and an overhaul of the curriculum to inspire more cross-cultural understanding.
It was written by five students who claim to have been ousted by the Wake Forest community, who disguised themselves under the names: Dante, Virgil, Beatrice, Lucifer and Farinata. Heretics of the Sixth Circle.
“We have been phased out of your clubs, kicked out of your parties, left out of your meetings, and passed over in your rushes,” wrote the post. “We are five students who are too afraid to speak to you as friends, too angry to speak to you calmly, too tired to speak to you loudly. We have chosen instead to scream.”
Chief of University Police, Regina Lawson, noted that the university and safety officials have discussed the issue but found that the email was not directly threatening.
“As the message that went out to campus indicated, there is no evidence to suggest that this expression constitutes an actual threat to campus,” Lawson said.
After receiving the email, many students reported it and the blog post to Campus Police on Sunday night, referencing their concern of safety on campus. They were not met with immediate action.
“I was confused when I initially got the email and just asked my hall if they got it too, which none of them did,” said one student who called the police at the request of members of their Greek organization. They asked to remain anonymous for safety concerns. “When I called University Police they didn’t really say much, instead they seemed like they had heard multiple people call already so they just wanted to hang up and move on.”
Other students involved in Greek Life have voiced opinions regarding the statements against the Greek community, including the call to end it completely because of its nature of exclusivity.
“I definitely understand the polarization between the Greek and non-Greek communities on campus, but for either group to blatantly attack the other does not create any room for helpful dialogue,” said a member of the Greek community who also asked to remain anonymous. “The blanket statement about the Greek community is far too generic, and frankly insulting, to those of us who do not treat Greek life as the end-all-be-all.”
While many students feel threatened by the message of the email, the Office of Communications and External Relations sent an email to the entire student body on Monday, April 9 reiterating their position that there is no direct threat to students. They also invited students to talk with “caring staff” on Monday in Benson. This guided conversation ranged from students citing reasons to feel unsafe on campus, to others sharing that they felt unsafe regularly o campus because of their identities.
“University officials are viewing it as free speech, which is protected even if it makes others feel uncomfortable,” the Office of Communications and External Relations wrote.
Outgoing Student Government President, Spencer Schiller, voiced his opinion on the matter. Schiller noted that while dialogue is important, inciting fear is not the appropriate manner to begin conversation.
“I think that it is important for Wake Forest to be a campus where questioning institutional structures is important in driving the progressive nature of higher education, but only when done in a civil and academic nature,” Schiller said. “Hiding behind mass emails and creating fear with rhetoric like ‘you are not safe here,’ ‘your days are numbered’ and ‘welcome to hell’ are meant to create unease.
Schiller also corrected specific points of the article, noting that some of their points are misinformed. He pointed out that a holistic curriculum review is already underway. Further, that a Code of Conduct review that actively sought the advice of students will be published on April 17. Finally, he added that Aramark is implementing a minimum wage of $11.10/hour to Wake Forest employees. These acknowledgements brought up that some points were valid but brought about the wrong way.
“I think that many of the 6th circle’s concerns are legitimate and that we, as a Wake Forest community, have work to do in a civil and safe manner,” Schiller said. “ I believe that this language has taken away from what seem to be legitimate concerns about the wellbeing of the Wake Forest community.”