RUTHERFORD - A private Roman Catholic university in Bergen County is investigating whether its housing director's email account was compromised after students received an email under her name that disparaged black students.
News 12 New Jersey obtained a copy of the email supposedly sent from Laura Pierotti's account. The email was sent to students, faculty and staff at Felician University, and says in part that black students had bad attitudes. It also talked about angry parents wondering why there are drug issues in residence halls.
The email contains many grammatical and spelling mistakes. Pierotti says she did not write the email and the school is now looking into where the message was sent from. The housing director remains on the job and was there as students moved in Tuesday.
Some students say that there were some hostile actions toward Pierotti.
"They were chanting stuff at her that she shouldn't be here, she should go home,” says senior Najea Norman.
University President Anne Prisco said in an email to the university that Pierotti's account appears to have been compromised by someone who was trying to "disparage her and the university." Prisco urged students not to rush to judgment in condemning Pierotti.
"As I've reminded all of our students, just the way I would want to protect any one of them, it's innocent until proven guilty,” she says.
School officials say Pierotti does not have access to some of the email distribution lists the message was sent to. They also say that given the university’s zero discrimination policy, they believe Pierotti wouldn't be so reckless.
"This is so not about who we are on so many levels so it's a nice opportunity to remind ourselves what we do value and what is important and why there is no tolerance for this,” Prisco says.
The president says that school officials will try to meet with students once every 24 hours to keep them updated on the situation.
Between the two Felician University campuses in Rutherford and Lodi, about 20 percent of the school’s student body is made up of black students.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.