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Framingham State enlists FBI help in investigation of racist messages

Since October, five messages containing racial slurs have been left on Framingham State University’s campus.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff/file/Globe Staff

Framingham State University officials have enlisted the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to try to identify who is responsible for leaving a series of racist notes targeting black students on campus.

Since October, five messages containing racial slurs have been left on campus, and the handwriting evidence in the cases has been handed over to the FBI for analysis, according to campus Police Chief Brad Medeiros.

The most recent message was found Friday by Carlos Barbosa Jr., 18, a freshman from Boston. The handwritten note slipped under his door contained an racial epithet.

This is the second racist message Barbosa received this semester, and he said he’s frustrated that the school hasn’t taken tougher action to put a halt to the racial harassment of black students.


He said many black students feel unsafe, and that the repeated incidents are “taking a toll on people on campus.”

Following the latest incident, F. Javier Cevallos, the school’s president, sent an e-mail Friday to students, staff, and faculty in which he said he was pained to know students felt unsafe.

“To the person(s) responsible for the acts of racism that have occurred this semester, I want you to know that you do not share our community’s values. You do not belong at FSU,” Cevallos wrote.

But Barbosa wants Cevallos to meet directly with black students to hear their concerns, rather than a publish an e-mailed statement.

“They’re making their decisions about what to do without speaking to who is being directly affected,” said Barbosa.

African-American students make up 11.3 percent of the 3,928 undergraduates enrolled at Framingham State, according to spokesman Daniel Magazu.

During its investigation, Magazu said the school has also reached out to the Massachusetts State Police for assistance on finding viable fingerprints, and has consulted with the Middlesex district attorney’s office.


Magazu said the school is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the identity of a person responsible for any of the messages. He said administrators are disappointed and disgusted by the incidents.

A college safety report showed that in 2016, one hate crime based on religion, plus two racially based hate crimes, were reported on campus.

The school will provide anti-bias training for campus police and more than 100 faculty and staff this weekend, Magazu said. Mandatory anti-bias training will also be included in student orientation starting next fall.

The school is also developing working groups for students to discuss their concerns with administrators, he said, and will hold a nondenominational service on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

“It is something the university is taking very seriously,” Magazu said. “We are determined to come out as a stronger community because of this.”

Originally from Cape Verde, Barbosa immigrated with his family in 2000 to Boston, and graduated from Catholic Memorial School in West Roxbury. Barbosa plays football for Framingham State’s team, and is a history major who hopes to become a Boston high school teacher.

Barbosa said he was inspired to speak out due to his experience working with the Roxbury-based group Teen Empowerment, which encourages young people to act for social change.

At Framingham State, black students have largely grappled with the impact of the racist messages alone, with little support from their white classmates, Barbosa said.

Despite a walkout earlier in the semester from classes to protest the messages and the school’s handling of the investigation, black students still remain concerned their voices are not being heard, he said.


“We’ve been targeted, and we will still be targeted because of the country we live in,” said Barbosa. “Black students across this country . . . are usually left out and marginalized. My message is that we need unconditional support.”

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.