On Tuesday, Sept. 17, the Wake Forest campus community was notified that several faculty and staff members received threatening emails from an unknown source on Sept. 10 and 11.
“The emails were intentionally inflammatory, using racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and discriminatory language,” the email notification, sent on behalf of University Police, stated. “The wording of the emails was intentionally intimidating and threatening, though no direct and specific threat was made.”
The emails were sent to individual and offices inboxes associated with two academic departments — the Department of Sociology and the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies — and three offices on campus — the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the LGBTQ+ Center and the Intercultural Center.
According to the email notification, there were 12 original emails. There are no reports of any students receiving similar emails and no further emails have been reported.
In response, University Police has undertaken an investigation, coordinating with Information Systems, local authorities and state and federal agencies. Faculty and staff were informed by University Police of the investigation on Sept. 11.
In addition, Wake Forest has increased the police and security presence around buildings with the affected offices, the email notification 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 email notification said.
Regina Lawson, chief of police for University Police, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Old Gold & Black obtained screenshots of an email sent out by Joseph Soares, professor in and chair of the Department of Sociology, to students in the sociology department. Soares went into further detail of the content of the threatening email that faculty and staff received.
“[The] hate email 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,” Soares wrote. “We take this hate email as being not just racist, homophobic and misogynistic but also as a threat of violence. The call to “purge” categories of persons is a white supremacist call for genocide.”
According to Soares’ email, the sociology department has cancelled classes for the rest of the week in order to allow the department to “fully organize [their] security.”
Soares did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The following administrative staff in charge of the offices affected by the threatening emails did not respond immediately respond to requests for comment: Simone Caron, chair of the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Angela Mazaris, director of the LGBTQ+ Center; and Jonathan McElderry, executive director of the Intercultural Center.
Jose Villalba, vice president for Diversity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer, acknowledged the strength and resolve of his colleagues, after having been affected by the threatening email.
“In the midst of a challenging and taxing moment in our collective lived experience, [my colleagues in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion] steadied themselves as they lifted each other up, while making space and providing counsel to our students, staff, faculty and families,” Villalba said. “We will continue to champion programs, policies, and protocols based on the promotion of inclusive practices, as we continue to teach when we can and learn when we must.”