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    UMass Amherst investigates racist messages in dorms

    The University of Massachusetts Amherst is investigating racist vandalism that targeted students in their dormitories over the past week.

    Three messages, all found inside dorm buildings in the Southwest residential part of campus, called for killing black and Mexican people, according to The Daily Hampshire Gazette.

    “Such expressions of hate and intolerance have no place on our campus,” Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy wrote in a campuswide e-mail this week. “We condemn language intended to marginalize or make any member of our community unsafe, and we will aggressively investigate this matter for criminal and administrative reviews.”

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    Campus spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said Thursday the racist graffiti was first reported to university police on Saturday. A second case was reported Monday, which prompted Subbaswamy’s e-mail on Tuesday. Discovery of a third racist message was reported to police Wednesday.

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    It is unclear whether the messages were written by the same person or persons, Blaguszewski said.

    Several students told the Gazette they had not experienced racism before at UMass.

    Blaguszewski said that while racist incidents are uncommon on campus, it is important for the school and its community to condemn such acts.

    Josh Odam, who said he found a racist message scrawled in all capital letters on his door, wrote an Op-Ed Thursday in the Daily Collegian student newspaper.

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    “This cowardly act of hate speech not only violated my space, but permeated the ‘harambee’ community we have worked so hard to build,” wrote Odam, secretary of diversity for the Student Government Association. Harambee is an East African word that means unity or working together as a community.

    “To be blunt, whoever did this messed with the wrong one,” he added. “They went to the wrong door, the wrong floor, and the wrong community. We will not stand for this ignorance on our campus and will hold the university and ourselves directly accountable to ensure the safety of black students, students of color, and the entire population.”

    Blaguszewski said a group of concerned students organized a meeting on campus Wednesday night to discuss the incidents. More than 100 people attended, including Subbaswamy and other university administrators.

    In his e-mail, Subbaswamy invited students to attend a previously scheduled meeting Thursday afternoon on diversity, equity, and inclusion at UMass.

    “As a community, it is imperative we work together to reaffirm our values of inclusion and respect for all,” he wrote. “We must acknowledge the power of language and use it to advance social justice, inclusion and access. We must ensure that all members of our community experience a welcoming and safe environment in which to live, learn and work.”

    Matt Rocheleau is at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mrochele