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Black Students, Staff Threatened Amid Rally for Racial Justice

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    Black Students at NJ University Threatened Online

    Some Kean University students stayed away from classes Wednesday because of the threats. Pat Battle reports. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015)

    Authorities are investigating after someone tweeted threats against black students, faculty and staff at Kean University in New Jersey Tuesday night.

    The university's police department said in a Facebook post that the campus would be open Wednesday, despite threats posted to Twitter during a peaceful rally protesting racial intolerance on college campuses. 

    "We are profoundly troubled by this display of hatred which does not reflect in any way the values we hold sacred on our diverse campus," police wrote in the post.

    Several anonymous messages posted Tuesday night threatened to "shoot every black woman and male" at the college. The tweets came as black students gathered at a clock tower for a peaceful rally to bring awareness to racism on college campuses.

    At least one of the tweets was addressed to the Kean University Police Department's account.

    "Although we have taken appropriate precautions to ensure the safety of our community, we respect your right to use your own best judgment in deciding whether or not to come to campus," university police wrote on Facebook. "We are profoundly troubled by this display of hatred which does not reflect in any way the values we hold sacred on our diverse campus."

    The tweets have left many students at the university in fear.

    Courtney Conner, a junior at the school, said that most of her friends are in their rooms. They've been afraid to leave since Tuesday's threats.

    "They're in one room," she said. "They haven't left since the tweets went out." 

    Kean University President Dawood Farahi made an impromptu address Wednesday to a few dozen students gathered back at the clock tower at lunch time.

    "Statements like this show that we still have a lot of work to do," Farahi told the students as they gathered around.

    Farahi made the decision to keep the school open despite the threats after university police deemed they were not credible. And though the Twitter account was shut down Wednesday morning, the person responsible was not in custody.

    It's international education week at Kean, an irony not lost on Tandieka, a grad student who hoped students would not turn away in fear.

    "It sends a clear message to the cowards who sent those tweets last night that we're not afraid," she said.

    University police said they notified the Department of Homeland Security, along with state, county and local authorities about the tweets. Additional security will be provided in light of the threats. 

    "If you see something suspicious or unusual in your daily routine or notice someone's behavior that doesn't seem quite right, say something," the department said.

    Black students make up about 25 percent of the student body at Kean, which prides itself on diversity.

    Still, in the wake of Tuesday's threats, there are calls for Farahi to step down.

    "This has arisen from an atmosphere in which this kind of racism is allowed to flourish," Ronald Slaughter, of the Union County Ministerial Alliance, said.

    The news came amid calls for a worldwide day of action Wednesday — #StudentBlackOut — as part of the push to end racial injustice on college campuses.