Emerson targeted by white nationalist emails

by Max Reyes / Beacon Staff • March 23, 2017

For the second time this academic year, the college has been targeted by white nationalist propaganda.

According to an email sent to the Emerson community by President M. Lee Pelton Saturday, over 500 students, faculty members, and staff received emails advocating the message of the White Genocide Project, an organization that describes immigration and diversity as a form of genocide against white people.

The emails were sent from six different AOL accounts from a single computer in Roseville, California on Friday, March 17, afterwhich IT created a firewall to block further emails from reaching the college, according to Pelton’s email.

In December, seven posters promoting a group known as American Vanguard were found on campus promoting ideas similar to those expressed in the White Genocide Project’s email.

“These types of things are happening on campuses all across the country, unfortunately,” James Hoppe, vice president and dean of student life, said in an interview. “I do think it’s a reflection of the current atmosphere around the country.”

SGA President Emily Solomon said that the white nationalist emails sent to students and the posters found on campus raise questions about whether that sort of speech should be allowed in the name of freedom of expression or if it should be silenced outright.

“This is a conversation that is only just starting,” Solomon said. She also said personal security is an essential element of freedom of speech, and that hate speech jeopardizes that.

“To have productive conversation, people need to feel safe,” she said. “If I don’t feel safe … I’m less likely to profess my opinion, and that means philosophically, ideologically, my freedom of speech has been restricted.”

In his message to the community, Pelton said he asked the Emerson College Police Department to investigate the emails. However, Hoppe said that because no specific person had been targeted by the emails, they had not violated any laws.

Other colleges—including Harvard University, Princeton University, and Yale University—received similar emails advocating the White Genocide Project in October, according to Business Insider. An article by the Harvard Crimson published at the time indicates that at least one of the email accounts that targeted Emerson targeted Harvard as well.

Hoppe said the college doesn’t know why Emerson was targeted. The White Genocide Project could not be reached for comment.

After the October incidents, a member of the organization, Steve Goode, told other news outlets that he did not know who sent the messages, but that he agreed with it. An article appeared on the White Genocide Project’s website that purported to contain details about email interactions between Emerson community members and the organization, but no names were provided in the article.