A number of black freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania on Friday received multiple messages via a mobile group messaging application containing graphic racist imagery and racial slurs.
The students were added to a GroupMe account titled “Mud Men” that contained “violent, racist and thoroughly repugnant images and messages,” the university said in a statement about the incident. The school added that it is still trying to determine how many students had been targeted .
GroupMe is a mobile app in which users can add people to a group chat and then send them photos and messages; the UPenn students were added to the racist group without their consent. It remains unclear how those responsible for the group obtained the contact information of the freshmen, and university officials declined to comment on the matter.
Screenshots of the group chat posted to social media show a series of vile messages, including a photo depicting lynchings with “I love America” written below it. Another message came in the form of a calendar invitation to a “Daily lynching” event set to Friday’s date, with a statement reading “Never be a n****r in SAE,” a college fraternity. The profile picture for the group, which appeared to have been altered, showed an African-American man wearing an orange prison jumpsuit.
Adrienne Hopkins, a 28-year-old MBA student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who had seen the messages, told The Huffington Post that the name of the group changed throughout the day, and that at one point it was called “Trump lovers.” Hopkins also said she believed the individuals sending the racist messages had political motivations, because they had usernames that were variations on “Barack Obama” or “Trump disciples.” Some messages contained other racist slurs and Trump-related images, she said.
According to the university’s student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, in a group chat message titled, “Trump is love,” an individual wrote “dumb slave.” Another individual posted a photo of the Donald Trump campaign’s signature red hat with the words, “GRAB THEM BY THE P***Y,” the newspaper reported.
Hopkins, who is black, said the mood on campus was deeply somber and students felt “uprooted” by the racist messages. For many, she said, it was the first time they had been confronted by such explicit racism and vitriol.
“It was really sad to see their faces, they were crying,” Hopkins said, her voice cracking. “It was a reminder for them that no matter how much education you obtain, no matter the riches you amass, there are some people who will view your humanity as not worth the same amount as theirs.”
The account sending the messages is believed to be based in Oklahoma, the university said, but campus police and security staff are still investigating the exact source of the messages.
University President Amy Gutmann, Provost Vincent Price and Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli issued a joint statement Friday strongly condemning the messages.
“This is simply deplorable,” the statement read. “This is absolutely vile material and completely offensive to everyone on our campus. We are both angry and saddened that it was directed to our students or to anyone. The people responsible for this are reprehensible.”
The university administrators said they have taken steps to increase campus safety in the wake of the racist messages.
A college Republican group at the university also issued a statement on Facebook condemning the messages.
“These messages are absolutely despicable,” the post read. “Hate such as this has no place on Penn’s campus or in our nation. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected, and we hope that Penn administration and Penn police find the perpetrators as soon as possible.”
Republican President-elect Donald Trump famously attended the university’s prestigious Wharton school, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in economics as an undergraduate. The student Republican group did not endorse Trump, The Daily Pennsylvanian reported.
In the three days since he was elected as president, there have been a glut of sickening racist acts, hate crimes and vandalism, including many that referenced his win or his campaign slogan.
Hopkins said that many students on campus are frustrated by the fact that Trump has not condemned the racist incidents around the nation and at University of Pennsylvania.
“There’s no way he can say he stands for unity and then not, at the same time, condemn the actions of those who are saying that they are doing these hateful things in his name,” Hopkins said. “I’m terrified that these types of things are happening three days after this man has been elected ― what in the world do we have in store over the next four years.”