College life in Philly

How an Oklahoma student got access to send that racist message to Penn

It turns out he’d been accepted, but declined to attend school in Philly.

Campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

Campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

Melissa Troyer / Flickr

Since several Penn freshmen were looped in racist group texts last week, at least one major question has remained: How did three people from Oklahoma get the students’ contact information and add them to a GroupMe text?

The reason appears to be because one of the involved individuals from Oklahoma was offered admission as a student at Penn for this fall — and, in fact, originally accepted the offer. In a message posted on Penn’s Instagram account, Penn President Amy Gutmann said one of the people being investigated for starting the racist group chat “accepted the offer in May, but chose, ultimately, not to attend.”

View this post on Instagram

Latest Update on Racist Messages Directed to Penn Students⠀ ⠀ from⠀ Amy Gutmann, President⠀ Vincent Price, Provost and Craig Carnaroli, Executive Vice President⠀ ⠀ We write to provide you with the latest information on the investigation into racist messages sent to Penn students.⠀ ⠀ One question that many have asked is how the contact information for some of our students was obtained. The investigation has determined that there was no compromise of the Penn directory or any campus data systems. It appears that the overlap between the alleged perpetrators and our students was through third-party social media applications (Facebook and GroupMe).⠀ ⠀ We have learned that one of the individuals being investigated in Oklahoma had been offered admission to Penn, accepted the offer in May, but chose, ultimately, not to attend. Having accepted Penn’s admission offer, he was invited to join and access the private Facebook group created for the Class of 2020, which is a common practice among many colleges and universities. Utilizing this access, he obtained the contact information of some Black first-year students who had shared their information with the Facebook group. He added those individual students to the racist GroupMe message thread without their permission or knowledge.⠀ ⠀ We are working to prevent this type of access in the future, and Penn Police are continuing to work with the FBI and their counterparts in Oklahoma to bring the investigation to completion. In one other development, the University of Oklahoma announced today that a student identified as being involved in the incident is no longer enrolled at that university.⠀ ⠀ We continue to support all affected students and underscore our outrage at such reprehensible behavior, whether it originates within or outside our campus. We must unite as a community to heal, reach out, support and understand one another in such challenging times.⠀ ⠀ We will update you when we have any further information. ⠀ #penn

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After accepting the offer of admission, Gutmann’s message reads, he gained access to a Class of 2020 private Facebook group. It’s there he would’ve been able to obtain contact information for the black Penn freshmen looped into the GroupMe chats.

“He added those individual students to the racist GroupMe message thread without their permission or knowledge,” Gutmann said in the statement.

She noted Penn is working prevent “this type of access” in the future but did not go into specifics.

On Tuesday, the University of Oklahoma announced its student involved in the racist texts was no longer enrolled at the school. Tulsa Community College announced one of its students was also involved and that the student had been suspended.

The racist texts included a subject titled “Nigger Lynching” and other racist phrases and also called for scheduled lynchings.

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