Harvard Faculty Member Finds a Hateful Note on Office Door

Harvard University has launched an investigation after a faculty member found a hateful note on her office door that insulted her ethnicity and immigration status on September 26, university officials announced.

The faculty member was returning to her office “in the company of graduate students to find a note tacked to her door bearing hateful and obscene language that insulted her ethnicity and immigrant status, challenged her right to be at Harvard, and wished her ill,” President Lawrence Bacow and Dean Claudine Gay said in a letter to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The university officials wrote they strongly“condemn this hateful act and all forms of hate speech, and that we will answer attacks on members of our community with every resource at our disposal.”

“Attacks of this kind are both personally damaging for those who experience them and an assault on our faculty’s fundamental commitments to academic excellence,” the letter continued. “Acts of bigotry and malice harm us all because they corrode the trust and respect that is essential to the open exchange of ideas.”

“Those who commit acts of hate seek to disrupt our academic mission.”

The letter said it had been “a very difficult 24 hours” for the faculty member and local department. Officials did not identify the faculty member targeted.

“As we all find ways to support one another and to recommit ourselves to the values that define who we are as a community, we would ask that we do so in a way that is mindful of the need for privacy of those directly impacted,” Bacow and Gay wrote.

The Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) provided the faculty member and other staff with support after the incident and launched a formal probe.

Bacow and Gay’s letter added: “As faculty, students, and staff, we all have a stake in ensuring that this is an educational community that lives the values of tolerance, civility, and inclusion that are essential to our work.”

Harvard University told The North Star that it did not have any additional comments at this time.

Students on campus told WHDH that the incident revealed an unfortunate aspect of life on Harvard’s campus.

“It’s very unfortunate, I’m a student, I am a Latinx student and I am a first-year student. So, it’s a little bit unfortunate that it’s happening so early in my time here,” student Gabe Maduro told the news station. “It’s a little bit discouraging but I think you know, the administration is responding in the best way they know.”

The hateful note to the faculty member is not the only racial incident that Harvard is currently weathering. On September 25, the Harvard University Police Department suspended an officer for a week without pay after an investigation found he physically assaulted another officer who allegedly used racial and homophobic slurs against him.

About four years ago, Officers Josiah Christian and Thomas F. Karns got into a fight after Karns allegedly called Christian, who is Black, a “f—t [N-word],” union officials representing Christian told The Harvard Crimson, the university’s student newspaper. An internal investigation was launched this summer when the altercation was reported to management.

Harvard University Police Association (HUPA) President Michael J. Allen and Vice President Joseph E. Steverman said that Karns denied calling Christian the N-word. After an investigation, there was insufficient evidence to support Karns had used the racial epithet, but it did find Karns had used a homophobic slur.

The investigation led HUPD Chief Francis “Bud” D. Riley to suspend Christian for a week without pay. HUPD reportedly told HUPA that Karns would also face punishment but would not be fired. It is unclear what punishment Karns will ultimately face.

In a statement to The Crimson, the executive board of HUPA said they were “saddened and discouraged” by the decision not to terminate Karns’s employment.

“The lack of respect/concern shown to Officer Christian and all minority, gay and lesbian, and members of the Harvard University Police Department is disheartening to say the least,” the board said.

Harvard’s admissions statistics show that the university’s student population is largely white. Approximately 46 percent of freshmen admitted in 2019 were white and 25 percent were Asian American. About 14 percent of students admitted were African American and 12 percent were Hispanic or Latinx.

Anyone with information on the incident involving the faculty member is asked to contact the Harvard University Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division at 617-495-1796.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.