Black studies department copes with hateful messages

In addition to derogatory emails and phone calls, a package of diapers was sent to the black studies department.

Following numerous demonstrations about campus climate and resignations of administrators, phones in the black studies department started ringing. One man in particular called in asking to “give him 200 people because he’s casting for Planet of the Apes.”

This is just one example of the harassment directed toward faculty members this November. Many faculty members from multiple departments, including history, black studies and communication, have received vulgar messages.

“The painful thing about (the ‘apes’ call) is one of our student workers picked up the phone,” black studies department chairwoman Stephanie Shonekan said. “(The student worker is) a delightful girl from Illinois who has loved her experience at Mizzou, and for her to be at the front of that kind of hatefulness is just really, really sad. I know it’s out there, but for one of my students to hear that from a human being? It was just the most hurtful thing that (the black studies department has) gone through.”

Some of the hateful messages were anonymous emails, so it was difficult to track down the identity of the senders because of the “ambiguous addresses,” she said.

The department was instructed to send them to, and the messages were then investigated further by the MU Police Department, Shonekan said.

The Department of Information Technology’s involvement in response to threatening emails is minimal, Information Security Officer Brandon Hough said in an email. Hough added that DoIT provides metadata details about emails for law enforcement when properly requested.

Shonekan said one of the strangest incidents the department dealt with was receiving a package of diapers. Subsequently, the department was able find the identification of the sender.

Journalism professor Cynthia Frisby also was bombarded with hateful messages after she made an appearance on CNN on Nov. 9.

“You ugly fuckin niggers are good for one thing: Pickin cotton!" read one of the emails sent to Frisby. "All of you should be expelled for causing trouble on campus!”

A picture of the Confederate flag was attached to the email.

Frisby said she had a difficult time understanding why she was receiving messages containing hateful language.

“It’s concerning why people are outraged since I had the message of: ‘Let’s sit down and talk things through,’” Frisby said in a Nov. 10 Maneater article.

However, she explained that she had to “let it go,” because if she let the email hatred affect her, it would only “hurt her health.”

Associate professor Scott Brooks said in an email he does not have much to comment on when it comes to hateful emails and phone calls.

“I've decided not to give (the emails) life,” Brooks said in an email. “We got messages as a department, some received personal messages, and we've moved on.”

Brooks said the black studies department stands by all their students, regardless of their varied positions. Shonekan said the hateful messages she and her department received highlights the importance of what student activists have been fighting for on campus.

“I would also say that all of the activists over the years have done it out of love,” Shonekan said. “Out of a love for Mizzou, out of a love and a need to see Mizzou become a better place and the responses, like the one I just mentioned, have not come out of a place of love.”

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