Harvard University is reporting that hundreds of Harvard students — most of them female students with Asian or Asian American surnames — received a series of mass emails yesterday, threatening that they would be shot on-campus today.
Although the two emails, sent minutes apart, were addressed to “All students of Harvard”, they were not sent to the entire Harvard community. Instead, the emails appeared to have selectively targeted Asian and Asian American women, based on their surnames. The emails also offered some clue that the recipients were chosen based on their presumed race or ethnicity; the Harvard Crimson reports that the emails referred to the recipients’ “slit -eyes”.
The Boston Globe received a copy of the emails and while the full text does not appear to be available widely, the Globe reports:
In the profanity-laced e-mail, which the Globe obtained Friday night, the writer says, “I will come tomorrow in (sic) Harvard University (sic) and shoot all of you each one of you. all Harvard students, I will kill you individually. I’ll be back tomorrow at 11 clock in your [expletive] university and will kill you, you sons of [expletive]. Even Mark Zuckerberg of facebook I will kill. I’m going to kill every one of you.”
The identity of the email sender remains unclear. The emailer self-identifies as a Boston resident named Stephanie Nguyen at the bottom of the threat, however the emails were sent from email addresses that appear to identify the sender as an Eduardo Nguyen. The first set of emails were sent from a hotmail.de account, which is located in Germany, while a second set of emails — sent to some of the same recipients as the first and containing the same text as the first email — were sent from a Gmail account which identified the sender as a Huy Dinh.
A screen-capture of the email was later made available through Twitter and linked from Jezebel:
Email threat sent to predominantly Asian female undergrads at Harvard College. Be careful ladies. #asianwomen #threat pic.twitter.com/RZkP6X80io
— Phebe Hong (@phebesteroni) October 4, 2014
Here is the full text of the email:
All students at Harvard.
My name is Stephanie Nguyen.
I live in Boston.
I will come tomorrow in Harvard University and shoot all of you each one of you all Harvard students, I will kill you individually.
I’ll be back tomorrow at 11 o’clock in your fucking university and will kill you, you sons of bitches.
Even Mark Zuckerberg of facebook I willl kill
I’m going to kill every one of you
I promise you, slit-eyes
Police and FBI have been called in to investigate the threat, and Harvard administration issued an alert to its students, asking them to watch a video from the Department of Homeland security on active shooter procedures, and later telling them that the campus remained open.
However, several students have been warning one another to stay safe, and the Havard-Radcliffe Asian American Association, which had scheduled an event on the Asian American experience for this Saturday, have postponed until next week to protect the safety of attendees. The Daily Mail reports that the Association wrote this in an email:
‘To all of our dear friends who received this afternoon’s email, we express our sincerest sympathy and support,’ organizers wrote in an email announcing the cancellation.
‘No one should have to open their inbox and see a such a threatening and racially charged message.’
As of this morning, police and FBI are reporting that they believe that the death threat is “not credible” and that it likely originated overseas. From The Harvard Crimson:
“Initial findings from HUPD’s investigation of the threat emailed last night to hundreds of Harvard affiliates, while not complete, seem to indicate that the email originated overseas. As a result, it appears at this time that the threat may not be credible,” Harvard University Police Department spokesperson Steven G. Catalano wrote in a community advisory at 9:50 a.m. Saturday.
Catalano wrote that HUPD will continue to “treat the email very seriously” and plans to increase both its uniformed and plain-clothed presence on campus this weekend.
Nonetheless, many Asian American women are saying that they are still planning on staying indoors today.
Christina H. Gao ’16-’17, who was a recipient of the threat, said that she was comforted by HUPD’s quick response. “I was planning on being in my room during the time that was [outlined] in the email,” she said. “Of course it’s scary, but I’m glad HUPD is on it.”
The Yale Daily News reports on additional student reactions.
The email shocked and scared many of its recipients. While some considered leaving campus, many decided they will stay indoors tomorrow as a precaution.
“It made me really nervous when I first read it,” Peng said. “I could be walking down the hallway to the dining hall, look out my window and who knows?”
The email left others confused and unsure if the threat was credible, said Harvard student Kimberly Yu.
Several students are also critical of the university’s response.
Others were dissatisfied with the communication between the HUPD and the students. Aside from the initial notification about the threat and link to the university’s Active Shooter Safety Guidelines, students have not received further information, said Adela Kim, a Harvard College senior who received the email.
Harvard has had communication problems before, Kim said. During the bombings at the Boston Marathon in 2013, many students felt that the university did not provide them with sufficient information, she added.
Some students also received emails from Harvard’s Asian American Women’s Association (AAWA), Peng said. The AAWA told students that the email used slurs against Asian American students and provided contact information to group members for students who want to talk about the threat.
Although it seems unlikely that a shooter plans to carry through on the actions described in the mass email, that does not diminish the heinousness of this act. Someone, somewhere in the world, targeted a group of students at Harvard — most of them Asian and Asian American women — with death threats, likely based on their race and their gender.
This is an act of violence, designed to inflict harm on the women of our community by shattering our sense of safety and security, and should not be allowed to stand. No woman, including no AAPI woman, deserves to open their inbox and be greeted with this kind of terrorism.
Update (October 5): The plot thickens. Late yesterday afternoon, an email was sent from the original hotmail.de to several of the recipients of the original email. The second email claimed that to be a fifteen year old girl, and that the original death threat was sent by the email account owner’s younger brother. The second email contains an apology for the first email, but includes several misspellings like the first email, including some that seem to suggest that the writer of the email is German. Reports the Boston Globe:
Later Saturday, an apparent apology arrived from a writer who claimed to be a 15-year-old resident of France. Sent to at least some of those who received the initial threat, the follow-up e-mails arrived around 5 p.m.
“It was my little brother who has written the e-mail,” said the message, the text of which Wu provided to the Globe. “I’m not a killer, not a killer, please tell your dirketor so . . . To all Harvard students and staff I’m sorry what wrote my brother please I will bear the responsibility please call back all media.”
The latest e-mail also attributes the racial slur in the threat to the unnamed brother, and said he did not mean it. The writer continues to ask to be excused for the “inconvenience,” using a German word, which is misspelled in the text.
Update II (October 5): South China Morning Post is reporting that some of the recipients say they have received harassing messages from someone identifying as “Huy Dinh” since as early as 2013. Those reports are unconfirmed elsewhere on the internet, but this is from SCMP:
Some students said they received a second email hours later with the same text from another sender, identified as Huy Dinh in the return address. Chan said she had been receiving Facebook messages and emails from a person calling himself Huy Dinh since August 2013.
They were “crazy nonsensical emails and I didn’t think anything of it at the time”, she said.
Other students who received the threat said they had been contacted by Huy Dinh through email, Facebook and LinkedIn.
I will say that the name “Huy Dinh” sounded familiar to me, as well, when I first read this story, but I can’t place it.