Update: Francisco Nava '09 has since admitted that he sent the threat e-mails received by Anscombe members, including Nava himself, and Professor George that are described in this article. Please see the updated story.
Four officers of the Anscombe Society and a prominent conservative politics professor received threatening emails Wednesday evening from off-campus email addresses.
The five individuals received identical messages telling them they would "suffer," ordering them to "shut the fuck up" and declaring that "you are not welcome here." "We will destroy you," the message said.
Though the message did not explicitly mention the Anscombe Society, the four students who received emails were Anscombe vice president Jonathan Hwang '09, president Kevin Staley-Joyce '09, former president Sherif Girgis '08 and administrative committee chair Francisco Nava '09. Politics professor Robert George — who has publicly supported conservative causes, including the Anscombe Society's goal of promoting chastity — also received the message.
"It would be safe to say that the Anscombe Society is a common factor linking all of us," Hwang said. "It is the most intense reaction to the Anscombe Society that I've ever received."
University spokeswoman Cass Cliatt '96 said the University is investigating the threat but declined to elaborate because of security concerns. "The normal protocol for these types of threats is for public safety to determine the credibility and proceed to investigate," she said in an email.
Two different threatening emails were sent, both from similar but separate non-University email accounts. The first, sent Wednesday at 5:04 p.m., was caught by the University's spam filter before it reached the intended recipients. The second was sent at 5:34 p.m. and used symbols to mask an expletive, presumably to bypass the filter.
The second account's user name was listed as "David Hughes." There is a David Hughes '10 at the University, but he said he had nothing to do with the threats. "No idea, definitely not me," he said in an email. "Sorry."
All the students targeted said they felt relatively sure it wasn't Hughes who sent the email, and in any case, as several pointed out, people don't usually sign death threats, at least not with their real names.
Nava said he has received several threats in the last two months, which began soon after he became more active in Anscombe. Two were sent to his Frist Campus Center mailbox, and he found another slipped under the door of his dorm room one day upon returning home from church.
Nava said he's not sure whether the same person who wrote those typed letters is behind the threatening emails. "Just judging by the messages, I think they're probably related," he said.
But, Nava said, there was an important difference this time: The sender switched from the singular to the plural, saying "we are watching you." Nava wondered aloud how many people this was meant to be. "It's a little more disconcerting," he said.
"If the email is from off-campus, I feel a little better because it's some wacko or something, but if it's on campus then you start to wonder," he said. "It could be your neighbor, a peer, your professor, someone you brush elbows with in the dining hall."
Anscombe members, meanwhile, said they were undeterred by the threats.
"It doesn't change our positions," Staley-Joyce said. "What it does is give us a wake up call — it shows that these ideas are very important."
"This is the worst form of trying to silence opposing views: intimidation and fear," Hwang said. "If they were to stop issuing threats and actually come to the table with rational arguments or any intent for civil discourse, we'll be ready and waiting."
The experience of getting threats was new for all the students targeted except Nava. "I only sent it to a friend or two and made the mistake of mentioning it in passing to my parents, who are probably more worried than they should be," Girgis said of his reaction upon receiving the email.
George, on the other hand, said he has received plenty of hate mail in his 23 years of teaching and discussing controversial issues. He forwarded this most recent email to Public Safety.
"If it's a death threat or a threat of violence, I [alert authorities]," he said. "But if someone's saying, 'I've got influence with President Tilghman and I'm going to see that you're fired,' or something, then I don't report it. That's just standard hate mail."
George added that he had received "less than 10, probably more than two" messages that threatened physical harm in his career.
But, he added, it's important to keep it all in perspective. "If I were betting, I'd bet next month's salary that ... this is someone who stupidly thinks that no one is entitled to disagree with him, and if they do, that they'll be intimidated into silence by threatening."
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