Students Threatened on Social Media: What Will the University Do Next?
By: Maria Giovanna Jumper
In June 2020 a new Instagram account was created by an anonymous group of Adelphi students of color. The account, @blackatau, has been used to promote the voices of students who have experienced discrimination and sexual harassment on campus.
Within the past few weeks those stories have been publicized, including the names of aggressors students named. In response to these posts others became agitated and began spewing threats and hate speech directed at those that run the account and others involved. Later the account posted a screenshot where you can see someone commenting the “owner of the accounts address” (posted by an anonymous Instagram account) with the longitude and latitude of those they suspected ran the account.
Other accounts called for lynchings and other acts of violence. As the @blackatau continued posting about these threats, the university began responding and calling for the students who were threatened to contact The Department of Public Safety and Transportation. However, many of these students worry about Public Safety’s response stating that they didn’t feel the department was protecting students on our campus, based on their past experiences.
Since these threats were posted the university launched an investigation that now includes the Garden City Police Department and a private forensic investigation team to gain more information about the comments made. The administration hopes that the private forensic investigation team will be able to track these accounts and find out who is behind these threatening comments.
The Delphian did try to contact some students, but many were afraid to be quoted in the paper in light of these recent events.
Jennifer Ruvarashe Bynoe, a former student at Adelphi who experienced sexual harassment on campus, said “I have been threatened by white students and members of his [speaking about the student who harassed her] community. They posted my address online. And the addresses of other students, tracking our IP addresses. I notified faculty members who then took it further. Only now have they begun an investigation. Only now have they made half hearted statements about our lives mattering.”
More Bynoe’s experience was shared on the @blackatau instagram account.
In an interview with The Delphian, Dr. Sentwali Bakari, Vice President of Student Affairs, stated, “These threats prompted an immediate investigation with Public Safety and the local Garden City Police Department. We do not currently have any substantiated claims of racially motivated violence or harm against Adelphi students, and there are no people whose names are known. The alleged complaints are on private websites, which makes it difficult to determine and identify who is involved.”
Dr. Bakari has continued to state that he, as well as the rest of the administration, care about the students and their safety. Additionally, when Title IX and discrimination cases are brought to the attention of the administration, they are immediately investigated, according to Dr. Bakari.
Dr. Bakari said, “Even if students do not publicly see the outcome of any investigation it does not mean there were not sanctions taken against perpetrators. We don’t want our students to have the perception that if they do not know the outcome of certain situations that nothing is being done or that we are not taking it seriously.”
Yet, across the campus students understand that sanctions may not be publicly known, they are however confused about the processes the university take when investigating title ix and discrimination cases. Others have expressed the fact that they have made complaints and received no response from the university.
Dr. Bakari stressed his understanding of the frustrations that students are experiencing and hopes to continue to have conversations with students to fully understand their point of view.
However, when the university asked for further evidence, students felt disheartened. On February 6, the blackatau Instagram account posted this comment: “We are not surprised that those who claim to have the skills and will to protect Black students have once again chosen not to. But don’t worry they’ll have another zoom call for us to share our feelings about being threatened with lynchings while they gaslight us and tell us it never happened.”
Other posts point to the comments made on social media by the university. Todd Wilson, Strategic Communications Director, said, “It is very difficult responding on a public forum as the university and that it is not like having conversations.”
Wilson wants to remind students that the Communications Department is not doing the investigating but is trying to provide useful information as it becomes available to them.
Ultimately, tracking anonymous social media accounts on a public forum is not a simple task. The comments and accounts have since been removed, which warranted the need for the private forensic investigation team. The university hopes to have more answers soon, but as Wilson mentioned, it can be difficult to track down these accounts.
Until those that posted these comments are found and held accountable, the students at Adelphi University and those associated with blackatau, will continue to be fearful of the possibility of violence. Students should look out for communications about the Baker Tilly Audit of Title IX and discrimination cases, for more information check out the second and fourth issues of the Delphian from Fall 2020. Additionally, Dr. Bakari will be reaching out to student organizations to talk with the students and hear from them.
Finally, Bynoe stated, “I might add that title IX suggested I get therapy to get used to the US culture. Which is to say that they told me to go and become socialized in expecting and accepting racial violence and sexual aggression on their campus.”
Overall, students are tired of the constant forums and conversations and want change and increased transparency.
Editor’s Note: If you have any information that could help in the investigation of these accounts please contact the student conduct office or title IX if you feel uncomfortable contacting Public Safety. The administration would like to remind students that Public Safety is there to help and protect students; however those other offices listed can also help students.