Emailed Death Threat Investigation Remains Open

Over six months after hundreds of Harvard affiliates received emailed death threats, many undergraduates await an official end to the police investigation into the source of the emails.

Last October, an email containing death threats hit the inboxes of more than 100 Harvard affiliates, disproportionately targeting women of Asian descent. Days later, the Harvard University Police Department confirmed that the emails originated overseas and did not pose a threat. About two months later, the department handed off an investigation to authorities in Germany, where the sender of the email had claimed to reside. One of the addresses associated with the threats had been emailing undergraduates for several months, and another address sent a correspondence on Christmas morning appearing to apologize in broken English for the previous threats.

Last week, HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano wrote in an email that although the case was ongoing, HUPD was “done for now.” Catalano directed comment to the the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Boston office, where FBI spokesperson Kristen M. Setera declined to comment.

Leaders of campus cultural organizations and some undergraduates who received the death threats praised student groups’ response since last semester, but expressed a desire for further details about the police investigation.

“I and many of my peers who were deeply affected by this incident would deeply appreciate having final closure with the incident,” Gurbani Kaur ’18, who is currently taking time off from school, wrote in an email. Kaur expressed a desire that the individual or individuals responsible for the threats face not only punitive consequences, but also receive anti-discriminatory training and mental health counseling.

In the aftermath of the threats, many students criticized College administrators' response. Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana later acknowledged that administrators could improve communication with students and sent an email to undergraduates characterizing the emailed threats as “despicable.”

Although undergraduates praised subsequent progress of students and administrators who are organizing to improve the College’s current bias reporting system, they reiterated a desire for the close of the police investigation.

“I would like some closure to the event, but thankfully it’s not anything that is a daily thing that I have to face,” said Viet D. Tran ’16, co-president of the Harvard Vietnamese Association.

In an interview last week, Khurana said the College’s communications in this case depend largely on information Harvard receives from the authorities’ investigation.

“If it’s appropriate, we’ll communicate it broadly,” he said.

—Staff writer Ivan B. K. Levingston contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Noah J. Delwiche can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ndelwiche.


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