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Boston police, FBI investigating notes to students

Boston police and the FBI are helping Simmons College public safety officers to investigate three recent incidents of students receiving threatening hate messages at the college's dormitories, police and college officials said.

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On Oct. 30, a Muslim student reported receiving a threatening letter in her mailbox, and last Tuesday, a note expressing hatred for homosexuals was slipped under a student's door and a racial slur was scrawled on a whiteboard on another student's door, according to a letter from Sheila Murphy, the college's dean for student life, to students' parents Friday.
"We are taking these incidents very seriously," Murphy wrote. "The safety of our students, staff, and faculty is critical."
Simmons has increased the number of campus security details since the messages were received, Helen Drinan, the college president, said in Nov. 5 e-mail to students.
"I am saddened, shocked, disgusted, and angry about this situation," she wrote.
Simmons spokeswoman Allyson Irish said the college has sent information about the messages to the Boston police as well as the FBI. A Boston police spokesman confirmed the department is investigating; FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkewicz said the bureau does not confirm investigations.
Students and college faculty members, meanwhile, have also roundly denounced the hate messages. More than 300 of them attended a forum on the messages Friday, said Murphy.
Gabi DiGiandomenico, a Simmons senior from Natick, said many students at the forum wore green as a peace symbol and some wore headscarves to show solidarity with Muslim students.
"People were crying. A lot of the African-American community was especially shaken," the psychology major said.
"The campus response has been mostly disgust and shock and kind of embarrassment, because it's a community that really prides itself on inclusion and practicing respect for all diverse groups."
A group of about 10 students have been sleeping outside the room of the student in Morse Hall who received the hate message on her whiteboard, said Quinn Retmier, a resident assistant in the dormitory. Last year, another resident assistant found a racial slur scrawled on the whiteboard on her door and her residents kept a similar vigil around her room, Retmier said.
"Everyone was awesome about bringing people who slept outside the rooms pillows and blankets and stuff," said the junior from Martha's Vineyard.
"The student this year truly felt so much better when she knew that people cared enough to sleep outside her dorm."
The Student Government Association is organizing an antihate campaign and a sit-in Friday at the college's main building at 300 Fenway, said association president France Belizaire.
"The campuswide reaction has been anger, obviously, and some sadness, but we're trying to take some productive steps," said Belizaire, a senior from Roslindale.
"Everyone was shocked about this."
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