Kean University was the subject of anti-racism protests back in November – protests that were marred by threats against blacks made on social media. Now, police have arrested an African-American Kean graduate in connection with those threats, CNN is reporting.
— California News (@hollywoodphotog) December 2, 2015
The Kean University protests were intended to show solidarity with other anti-racism protests going on elsewhere in the country at the time: In mid-November of this year, protests broke out at the University of Missouri at Columbia over University President Timothy Wolfe’s perceived inaction over allegations of racism at the predominantly white university. One man, Jonathan Butler, even went on a hunger strike, while some football players threatened to go on strike until Wolfe resigned (which he ultimately did).
Meanwhile, over in Connecticut, a much smaller-scale protest took place at Yale University, where students protested a black woman being denied entrance to a party at a predominantly white fraternity, and a faculty member who suggested that students should be allowed to wear offensive Halloween costumes.
The protests at New Jersey’s Kean University (with an enrollment of 16,000) were smaller still, and were largely ignored by the national media, though they were held in common with the Missouri and Yale protests. According to a USA Today report, Kean’s protests centered on “embattled” University president Darwood Farahi. Protesters claimed that under his administration, a “climate of racial intolerance [had] been allowed to fester for years.” The school had also faced a number of racial discrimination lawsuits.
Further, the protesters said that Farahi had falsified his resume, and that graduation rates had dropped profoundly during his term.
And those protests were marred by threats of violence against black students. In a Twitter account, which has since been taken down, a user with the handle @keanuagainstblk made alarming threats against black students at Kean, including a threat to “kill every black male and female at kean university.”
— Thao (@ThaoHaPhD) November 18, 2015
At the time, Farahi called those threats “despicably racist,” according to NJ.
“Hate will never succeed. It will always fail. [The university] stands behind students when they peacefully use their constitutional rights.”
As it turns out, police are now saying those threats came from a former Kean University student. According to a press release from Union County Police, 24-year-old Kayla-Simone McKelvey, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, “left the [protest], and went to the college library, a few steps away, where she set up a Twitter account under a handle meant to conceal her identity.” She then returned to the protests and told other protesters about the threats of violence.
Police say there was never a legitimate threat of harm to Kean University students or staff.
In a statement via WNYW (New York), Farahi condemned the threats.
“[The University is] saddened to learn that the person allegedly responsible was an active participant in the rally that took place on campus… and is a former student of Kean. As a diverse academic community, we wholeheartedly respect and support activism, however, no cause or issue gives anyone the right to threaten the safety of others.”
McKelvey was charged with one count of creating a false public alarm, which carries a maximum three- to five-year sentence.
According to her LinkedIn profile, McKelvey works as a personal trainer. As of this writing, she has not returned calls for comment.
McKelvey will appear in court on December 16. It is not known, as of this writing, whether or not she has an attorney.
[Image via Shutterstock/Dirk Ercken]