Mebraht Gebre-Michael, an elected member of the student council at the University of Colorado, is used to receiving less than constructive criticism from her peers. She is not, however, accustomed to being threatened.
In an e-mail sent to her last Tuesday, Nov. 15, Gebre-Michael felt a personally attacked by the words that formed a hate letter.
“Why don’t you and all of your black (expletive, racial slur) friends disappear off our campus,” the letter read in part. “You will die if you run for student government again.”
“It’s basically threatening me as an individual, and African American students on this campus,” Gebre-Michael said.
On a campus in which only 15 percent of the 29,000 students are minorities, 457 of them black, Gebre-Michael said the e-mail doesn’t surprise her. However, she decided to publicize the e-mail to educate the surrounding community.
“Being on a predominantly white campus, students of color feel uncomfortable on a day to day basis,” she said. “The climate on campus is just becoming bearable for students of color; it’s ridiculous. Students of color have to constantly watch their backs.”
University of Colorado police are investigating whether the e-mail came from a private computer, or a public computer available in the University’s student union.
According to Interim Chancellor Phil Distefano, the University will use all available technology to identify the sender of the e-mail. If the sender is a student, he or she will be disciplined by not only the University, but the criminal justice system.
“Such hate-filled words do not reflect the values of this campus community,” Destefano said. “When any member is attacked with such a vicious message, we all are attacked.”
Prior to this incident, in June, a black CU student was attacked near campus after a van pulled up and began shouting racial slurs. Racial problems at the school reportedly began in February, however, during the Big 12 Conference on Black Student Affairs. During this time, thousands of minorities visiting CU reported racist remarks, poor service at an area restaurant and being stared at.