Montclair State students reacted with sympathy and concern Wednesday following the bomb threat and bigoted tweets made anonymously on Twitter and directed at Kean University.
This particular instance struck close to home for the Montclair State community and students as well as faculty, administration and authorities at both universities have been expressing their concerns.
Around 11 p.m. Tuesday, an anonymous account on Twitter began posting tweets that targeted “black students” at Kean University. Through the anonymous account, an individual or group of individuals stated that “black people at kean university will die” and “the cops wont save you…you’re black.”
The tweets were sent during a peaceful protest on campus that had been taking place in response to the recent controversy surrounding racial inequality at the university level. In response, many students at Kean University opted not to attend classes on Wednesday at their own discretion. Though the tweets did not target students at Montclair State, the University Police Department and other individuals on campus have both heard and began to look into the case themselves.
“University Police has been closely monitoring the heightened situation at Kean University,” said Lieutenant Kieran Barrett of the University Police Department. “We have close relationships with our fellow campus law enforcement agencies and offered any assistance that we might. Along with other law enforcement within the State, we have been updated by the NJ
State Police Regional Operations Information Center on any developments in this case or any others that may affect MSU or the immediate area.”
Often uncommon in most stories of similar origin, administration and faculty members at Montclair State have taken the time to discuss the matter and express their dismay over the issue at large as well.
“I was first made aware of the threats made at Kean University around lunchtime via social media and a text message from my mother,” said Professor Calvin John of the Justice Studies department at Montclair State. “My initial reaction was surprised, but not shocked. The heightened level of awareness of racial disparities across college campuses is a relevant topic at the moment. As seen last week with the University of Missouri and the threats made on black lives by a college student, it is not a shock there would be a copycat. In addition, the fact that black life is being threatened is not a new theme either both in the historical and current culture of American society. In short, black bodies don’t matter to the dominant group.”
While the administration could not be reached for comment, student organizations on the Montclair State campus spoke out against the incident and believe it to have been an act similar to those currently occurring across the country.
“I am outraged at the recent attacks and threats against African American students on the campuses of Kean University in N.J., University of Missouri, Howard University in Washington, D.C. and Bowie State University in Maryland,” said Jasmine Malloy, president of the Organization of Students for African Unity (OSAU). “We stand in unity with our brothers and sisters in the movement to eradicate this type of behavior.”
Carla DuBose, Vice President of OSAU, said, “I’m truly disheartened by what’s going on. In talking to other students outside of school in the surrounding area the climate and feelings seem to all be the same. Students are fed up and tired. They have every right to receive an education in an environment they don’t feel threatened. I would like to extend my prayers and thoughts to Kean and colleges going through this now. Change needs to come.”
With Kean University being only miles from Montclair State, it is undeniable that there is a connection between many Cougars and Red Hawks. Montclair State students expressed their fear for their fellow students – especially those they care for on a personal level.
“It’s very scary seeing those threats knowing that friends of mine go to that school. I think the tweets should be taken seriously in a day and age where shootings are sadly becoming more common,” said Patrick Clark, a senior Television and Digital Media.
Nakia Swinton, a senior Communication and Media Arts major, said, “I was shocked that a school so close was dealing with death threats on Twitter and worse because my best friend goes to that school so I was worried about her safety. I am still in shock that hatred like that still exists, especially a school close to Montclair State.”
“My brother is a junior at Kean. When he told me about [the threats] last night, we were both shocked,” said Thad Acosta, a sophomore Business Finance major. “It was scary knowing that this was happening near us and that these kinds of people can actually be anywhere. You don’t think too much of it when you see it on the news happening somewhere else. The scariest part is this kid could’ve easily been in one of his classes.”
Juan Ouvina, a junior English and Secondary Education major, said, “I feel terrified. Several of my friends are black and attend Kean. When I think of racism, N.J. is the last place in the U.S. that I typically think of because of our diverse population. As a person of color myself, I empathize with individuals who feel distressed about the incident. I simply don’t look Latino, but I fear for anyone that does at this point.”
As the topic of racial inequality continues to rise across the nation, only time will tell whether the issue will come to light on the campus of Montclair State itself. However, until then, Barrett urges the campus community to stay alert and smart in the wake of the incident. “We remind our community to remain vigilant to report suspicious activity or threatening posts as we have an obligation to each other to ensure our safety,” said Barrett. “ This threat was not directed to Montclair State, however, our officers are briefed on the matter and continue to be cognizant of evolving threats that may come about.”