fb-pixel Skip to main content

Harvard Law School group says 4 students targeted with hateful messages

Darren McCollester/Getty Images/Getty Images

Four Harvard Law students were targeted with racist and sexist messages earlier this year, and one students group is blasting the school’s handling of the probe into the offensive communications, saying it “failed to act and protect students.”

The law school’s dean of students, Marcia Sells, said in a statement that each of the four first-year students “received an anonymous, derogatory e-mail or text message.”

“We have repeatedly expressed to our students how deeply we regret the hurt these messages caused, and we condemned and continue to condemn in the strongest terms any communication or action that is intended to demean people,” said Sells.


The Harvard Black Law Students Association said in a Friday statement that the four students, two of whom are black, were targeted “with malicious e-mails and texts intended to inflict pain, fear, and the false notion that they do not belong at Harvard Law School on the basis of their racial and gender identities.”

The messages, according to the students association, read in part, “We all hate u . . . at least you help with the curve” and “you know you don’t belong here . . . youre just here because of affirmative action.”

Sells did not get into the specifics of the messages, but said the content was “deeply offensive and disparaging.” None of the messages threatened violence.

The law school contacted the university’s police department, and hired an outside law firm to investigate, but a school spokesman said Friday that “Sadly, the realities of technology sometimes permit those who commit such acts to evade detection, and we are disappointed that we were unable to identify who is responsible despite our efforts along multiple fronts.”

The students association claimed the administration is now reneging “on its promise to provide the [investigative] report to the targeted students.”


“According to the administration, the Federal Education Reporting Privacy Act (‘FERPA’) does not allow the University to release the report and that it either does not recall making such a promise to release the report or that if it did, it was an error,” said the group.

Sells, citing federal law and school practice, acknowledged that the school does not publicly disclose details of investigations.

“This practice is designed to protect the respective rights of all parties involved in any investigation,” she said in her statement.

A Harvard Law spokesman said in a Friday statement the school understands “why the four students who each received a message wish to see the fruits of our efforts, and we wish that we could do more to answer their questions.”

“We care deeply about the four students who each received these demeaning messages,” said the spokesman.

However, the students group is not satisfied with Harvard Law’s response to the situation, saying the school “woefully failed to act and protect the students.”

“The targeted students relied on the administration’s promise when agreeing to a school-led investigation,” said the group in a statement. “Now, more than seven months since the first hateful message was sent, the sender of this message remains unidentified and free to continue harassing Black and women students, meanwhile the targeted students have been left to continue fearing for their safety.”

Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.