LARAMIE — An anti-Semitic and potentially life-threatening email was received by an University of Wyoming employee at 8:32 a.m., Thursday, April 29.
The identity of the sender cannot yet be confirmed, as it is still under investigation by UW police; however, it was revealed that the sender, “Miley Lucas” was in no way affiliated with the university.
Jim Osborne of the UW Title IX office referred to the incident as a violation of UW Regulation 4-4, violence in the workplace. Although he was not at liberty to discuss any details of the investigation, he assured the campus community their top priority is to identify the offender.
Likewise, an email response from UW Police Chief Mike Samp — who was unable to comment — stated the email in question qualifies under Wyoming State Statute as an electronic threat and will be reported as a hate crime under university Clery Act reporting purposes, which requires all federally funded academic institutions to report and disseminate campus crimes.
Ben Herdt, manager of academic advising at UW and racial justice activist, said that after receiving the hate mail he was both fearful and disappointed.
“When you first read something like that it takes you by surprise,” he said.
But after reconsidering his work with Dr. Frederick Douglass Dixon, — grassroots activist and Director of the UW Black Studies Center — and evaluating the situation more broadly, he came to realize it isn’t nearly as surprising as one would hope.
The email came two days after the completion of the themed webinar, “Allyship, White Privilege and Social Justice Racism” hosted by the UW Black Studies Center on April 28.
The webinar, open to the public, provided an in-depth examination of the complexities involved with conscious social justice work.
Because of the timing and his recent work with Dixon, Herdt believes the offender who sent him the hate mail participated in the event.
“It’s unfortunately not surprising and reaffirms the need for (racial justice) advocacy,” Herdt said.
Chad Baldwin, associate vice president of communications at UW commented on behalf of President Seidel, stating he was aware of the situation and was horrified.
Any communication, be it telephoned, electronic or written, either to a person, a person’s immediate family, or anyone at the school in which the person is a student or employee is considered a misdemeanor under Wyoming State Statute Title 6 and punishable by imprisonment for up to one year, $1,000 fine or both.
This, however, is only possible if there is an identifiable offender to charge and prosecute. The anonymity provided through an electronic platform, Herdt alluded to, makes it difficult to identify a legitimate offender.
The person who sent Herdt the email used a Yahoo account, which according to experts, can be easily falsified to protect the identity of the user. Until an individual can be named with absolution, no real legal action can be taken.
Herdt referred to the internet as a veil of anonymity for hate, stating people are free to spread misinformation and hate without any accountability. He also said the need for hate crime law in Wyoming is “supremely necessary” because without it, no legal repercussions can take place.
Although legal actions are limited, Herdt said the most important thing he, and others who either receive hate mail or victimized by a hate crime, can do is share their experiences.
Herdt said sharing the experience with administrators, news outlets and personal affiliates, not only solicits support and encouragement from a community, but provides the evidence needed to further support the need for activism and change.
“It illustrates … what is truly broken about the system,” Herdt said.