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Update: 10:23 a.m. Saturday — A University of Oklahoma student has been suspended in connection with the message.
Penn students and staff are in an uproar after black freshmen students were added to a GroupMe group titled “Nigger Lynching.”
Student Calvary Rogers posted on Facebook about the group earlier today:
A Penn staffer told Billy Penn the President’s Office “was blowing up” with calls from concerned parents. The staffer said the administration was in a meeting this afternoon to discuss a response to the GroupMe posting.
Penn spokesperson Ron Ozio said the GroupMe account appears to be based in Oklahoma.
“Our police and information security staff are trying to locate the exact source,” he said over email, “and see what steps can be taken to cut the account off.”
Ozio recommended affected students to go to the Vice Provost of University Life’s office. Rogers did not respond to a request for comment.
Penn’s student newspaper, The Daily Penn, reported today that black freshmen at Penn were added to another group titled “Mud Men” and “Trump Is Love,” both of which contained explicit and racist messages. The paper said black students were organizing in the wake of the activity.
In a statement released just after 5 p.m. on Friday, Penn President Amy Gutmann said university police and “information security staff” are trying to locate the source to see if any steps can be taken to block the account.
“We are absolutely appalled that earlier today Black freshman students at Penn were added to a racist GroupMe account that appears to be based in Oklahoma,” she said in the statement. “The account itself is totally repugnant: it contains violent, racist and thoroughly disgusting images and messages. This is simply deplorable.”
Mayor Jim Kenney condemned the racist group messages in a statement. He said he wanted the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to investigate.
“Everyone is welcome in Philadelphia regardless of whether they are a freshman at one of our universities or if they’ve always called Philadelphia home,” Kenney said. “It is heartbreaking to see this type of activity here in the birthplace of our democracy and the city of brotherly love.”
Gov. Tom Wolf also weighed in, saying the events at Penn were “unacceptable.”
The full statement from the university’s media relations reads: “Earlier today a number of Black freshman students at Penn were added to a racist Group Me account that appears to be based in Oklahoma. The account contains violent, racist and thoroughly repugnant images and messages. Our police and information security staff are trying to locate the exact source and see what steps can be taken to cut the account off. Staff in the office of VPUL are identifying students who were impacted and providing support. Affected students should go to the VPUL office. The University is taking every step possible to address both the source of the racist material and the impact it has had on Black students on campus.”
Maya Arthur, a Penn junior and programming chair for the United Minorities Council, said the group messages followed an incident from Thursday night where a group began chanting “Build The Wall” at campus bar Smokey Joe’s. In the first few months of this semester, Arthur said, racist interactions like these had not been an issue.
“This is definitely an outright response to Trump winning,” she said.
Arthur described the feeling of black students on campus this week as tense. She went home to the Baltimore area for the weekend to get away from it.
“If this is the start, these chants and GroupMe messages,” Arthur said, “the next four years will be a continued struggle and continued other-ing of a part of the Penn community that’s already marginalized.”
The news at Penn follows a racist graffiti incident in South Philly where “Black Bitch” and “Trump Rules” were spray-painted on a car.
Penn is Donald Trump’s alma mater. At a Wednesday University Council meeting, several minority students expressed concern about his election. President Amy Gutmann comforted the students without mentioning Trump’s name. She also released this statement about Trump’s election, again not mentioning the Wharton grad by name: