In Response to a Racist Message Sent to Members of the Lamont-Doherty Community

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Dear Columbia Community,

Yesterday, graduate students on Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory campus received an email from an individual espousing racist, anti-black views. We write to alert you to this occurrence and to reinforce that Columbia’s diversity, including our racial diversity, is an essential source of our strength as an institution.

Should you or someone you know receive this email and want to file a report, you may do so through the “report an incident” button on University Life’s website and app or with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. We will continue to monitor the situation.

We recognize the distress this incident may cause and want to remind you that the University has many supportive resources available for all of our students. Any students in need of assistance can contact their dean of students, any of the resources here - or the Office of University Life (universitylife@columbia.edu). Please do not hesitate to reach out.

In community,

Suzanne B. Goldberg
Executive Vice President for University Life
Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law

Dean Carlos Alonso has shared this message with students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences:

Dear GSAS Students,

An unspecified number of you received yesterday afternoon a repugnant, racist email message that was sent to your individual Columbia mailboxes. The stupidity of the message is its own condemnation, but its evident desire to hurt and divide cannot be ignored.

We are all hurt by a message like this one, but we are not all hurt in the same way, because some of us were not its intended target. The message clearly intended to denigrate the black students in our community, and our response to it must begin by acknowledging that fact explicitly. The claims made by the message are not worth legitimizing by engaging with them, but their effect on our community must be addressed.

Hateful speech begins its insidious work by dividing us into targets and bystanders. The only way to counter that effect is for each of us to resist that attempt at dividing us; we must attempt to understand that hurt in a personal way, irrespective of whether we were its intended target; we must feel aggrieved collectively because in this situation no one is left unharmed. Let us oppose this odious message by using it as an occasion to strive for a more transcendent sense of community.

We have asked the relevant university offices to investigate this matter fully, and will announce in the coming days a forum where we may discuss the implications of this event, and to which representatives of EOAA and Public Safety will be invited to address any safety concerns.

Sincerely,

Carlos J. Alonso, Dean
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences