For the second time in three weeks, a racist post directed at a member or members of the Seton Hall community made its way through cyberspace, the University said via a mass email on Oct. 14. This time it was a social media post directed toward a student.
The email, signed by Vice President of Student Services Dr. Tracy Gottlieb, said that the Department of Public Safety is “actively investigating” a racist social media posting aimed at a SHU student, and that the South Orange Police Department (SOPD) has joined the investigation.
“The university has zero tolerance for racism, hate, bigotry or prejudice,” Gottlieb wrote.
Sgt. Adrian Acevedo of the SOPD confirmed that they were informed of the racist post on Oct. 14 and the incident took place “about a week prior.”
Gottlieb said in the announcement that this post was “especially concerning” because it happened so soon after the African Student Association received a racist email on Monday, Sept. 25. She vowed to ensure that the University will remain a “safe place” for all students.
The Department of Public Safety could not be reached for comment.
In a separate email to The Setonian, Gottlieb said that she believed that the SOPD is working on obtaining a subpoena to track down whoever is responsible for both the hateful email and the racist social media post, but the investigation is not easy.
“The problem with electronic media, of course, is pinpointing the perpetrator, who can hide behind the electronic platform they are using,” Gottlieb wrote.
Acevedo echoed Gottlieb’s sentiments about catching those responsible for an incident like this.
“It’s very hard to prove things over social media,” Acevedo said. “It’s not like the movies where you could just find out who somebody is and charge them. It’s very difficult. I can tell you that they do try, and they will go as far as they can with this.”
Acevedo said that since no one has been charged for the racist post yet, it would be “foolish” to disclose leads at this point because it might prevent the perpetrator from cooperating with the investigation in the future.
Gottlieb said that while she has met with concerned students who want answers, there are some details that need to be kept confidential for the sake of the investigation and the students involved.
Gottlieb stressed that she wants students to continue to bring incidences such as these to the University’s attention so they can be properly investigated and resolved.
“I have asked our students to say something if they see something offensive and not to let anger simmer,” Gottlieb wrote. “I have pledged that we will vigorously investigate any allegations of racism, hatred or bias against any group. I also hope that we can expand our conversations about racism beyond the people who are targets of hatred to open the eyes and ears of our entire community. I will be working toward that end in the days and months ahead.”
An email from the Office of the President on Oct. 18 acknowledged how “devastating” these bias incidents might be to SHU’s black/African-American students and the whole University community.
The email, titled “Hate cannot, and will not, find a home here at Seton Hall,” was jointly signed by Gottlieb, Interim President Dr. Mary Meehan, Interim Provost and Executive Vice President Dr. Karen Boroff and Student Government Association (SGA) President Christina Simon.
“Please consider this message a strong reminder that a true servant leader models tolerance and civility and celebrates the diverse backgrounds, which enrich our community,” the University leaders wrote. “Racism is despicable and needs to be rooted out of every corner of our campus.”
Brianna Bernath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.