Left: Penn students protest Friday night; Right: President Amy Gutmann

The criminal investigation into the origin of Friday’s racist GroupMe texts aimed at Penn freshmen has concluded three Oklahoma residents started the group messages and no Penn students were involved, University officials revealed Sunday.

One of the cross-country residents is a student at the University of the Oklahoma. He has been suspended while OU officials are investigating. It’s unclear whether the other two have ties to the university.

The University of Oklahoma has had its share of race issues before. It landed in the news in 2015 when members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon were recorded singing “There will never be a nigger at SAE.” That chant was repeated in one of the group messages.  

Though an OU student is involved, President David Boren has said the group messages likely started with non-students. Per the Norman Transcript, the local paper of the University of Oklahoma’s college town, an alt-right group called Identity Evropa had been placing promotional posters around campus last month. The group has a goal of recruiting college students to be members.

The racist GroupMe message began circulating Friday, with many black freshmen at Penn added to a thread titled “Nigger Lynching.” It contained references to lynchings, the racist SAE chant and other racist language. Penn President Amy Gutmann, Mayor Jim Kenney and Governor Tom Wolf all swiftly condemned the racism. Students at Penn protested Friday night, with the university closing the gates during the Penn-Harvard football game because of the unrest.


Over the weekend, a Change.Org petition surfaced asking for Donald Trump, a Wharton graduate, to respond to the incident. As of Monday morning, he has not responded. Junior Maya Arthur, programming chair for the United Minorities Council, said Friday of the incident, along with chants of “build that wall” from a campus bar on Thursday, “This is definitely an outright response to Trump winning.”  

In a statement Sunday, Gutmann said Penn Police are still working with the FBI and authorities in Oklahoma and has asked staff to be sensitive to the needs of students affected by the messages.  

“We call on everyone to recognize that the events of the past few days are a tragic reminder of the overt and reprehensible racism that continues to exist within some segments of our society, and that we all need to unite together as a community and a society to oppose,” Gutmann said. “We are deeply saddened that Penn students were the victims of this hate, to which absolutely nobody should be subjected.”

Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...