By Brenda Flanagan
“With all the tweets of the bomb threats and just, like the hate tweets.” Freshman Monimia Murphy anxiously joined other students and went to class at Kean University this morning after spending yesterday holed up in her room. Like many here, she says, she felt afraid, after someone tweeted a barrage of racist death threats threatening students of color Tuesday. Fear gripped the campus and although the Administration reassured students, many took their cues from a fellow student body president, “he would recommend all students at Kean Univ to not go to class due to the threats that were being made.”
Murphy continued “the university’s response, in my opinion, was kind of vague. I didn’t really appreciate it, because even though you saw the cop cars outside the residence halls, they were empty.”
Angelica Ewaska, a junior at Kean said “I think there should have been more of a followup and more communications with students and staff in regards to it.”
Kean’s President Dawood Farahi called the tweets “unfounded,” and met with some students, urging them not to worry about the threats. “We will do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen. And we will find them. We cannot be defeated by a small group or a small person, a horribly-minded person.”
“Wouldn’t you think on a day your campus received bomb threats and death threats against people of color that you would have all type of law enforcement there? Until you could substantiate that claim had been put to rest?” said Reverend Ronald Slaughter from St. James AME Church.
Farahi’s response fell flat with many critics including a coalition of black ministers who called for Kean University’s president to step down.
“His time is up, he needs to resign. He needs to move on. He has done all that he can do for this institution. And in order to get rid of this culture, I think it has to go at the top,” continued Reverend Slaughter.
The Kean controversy hit during a week that’s seen a rising chorus of concern, students of color pointing out racism on college campuses across the United Staes and here in New Jersey including Princeton University.
“We’re here! We been here! We ain’t leaving’!”
Protesters demanded Princeton disavow former President and segregationist Woodrow Wilson, compel staff to attend sensitivity classes and create a marked space for students of color; the university agreed only to the third item. Students at Rutgers-Newark rallied in solidarity, vowed support for colleagues.
“Our bottom line message is that we support anyone who’s standing in solidarity against institutional racism and discrimination,” said Rahimah Faiq, President, Student Governing Association, Rutgers-Newark
“We just want to make sure those people get their voices heard and we show them we support them 110%,” Hajar Mahmoud, a Rutgers-Newark Senior added.
Opponents of Kean President Farahi claim the university discriminated against staff — women and people of color, and has settled multiple lawsuits quietly. Farahi’s office called the coalition’s accusations “baseless… This group is relying on information from disgruntled employees without checking the facts.” While the NAACP says it had not investigated the school in the past it sent a representative to campus today, to request a meeting with Farahi. “We have gotten those complaints, we’ve read about them, in regards to staff and students and we are concerned,” said Richard Smith, President, NJ NAACP.
Nerves remain frayed at Kean University, and the conversation on race is fraught with anxiety now as the campus struggles towards a new normal.