Nearly two years of racial problems at Pennsylvania State University’s main campus have culminated in death threats made at black students, particularly the president of the Black Caucus, and a threat of bombs at the May 12 graduation.
According to the media relations office, police and the FBI, which are involved in the ongoing investigation have told the university not to discuss the particulars of the increased security measures, both now and at graduation.
“No one should feel afraid of coming to the graduation ceremony,” said Christy Rambeau, manager for PSU’s news bureau.
The events occurring now started back in November of 1999 when 68 PSU students received an e-mail with a racist message and signed by “The Patriot” according to the official Web site for the concerned PSU students.
That original e-mail was followed up by another sent to 24 more students.
Investigation and tracing of the e-mail landed Temple in the spotlight. Temple Police Detective Robert Lowell said that the e-mails, both a single mass mailing, had originated from a computer in the Tuttleman Learning Center.
Lowell stressed that the e-mails were not necessarily that of a Temple student, because students from other universities and other non-Temple-affiliated people have access to the labs.
The most recent string of racism comes nearly a year later, beginning on October of last year, and in the form of letters, all postmarked out of Altoona, Pa, a small town south west of the PSU’s main campus.
The letters, all heavy on obscene and offensive language were first mailed to three students, athlete’s parents and a member of the school’s Board of Trustees. That was followed by a letter to the Black Caucus president.
The letters used extreme name calling and blamed everyone from the black athletes on the football team for the losing season to threatening the caucus president from voicing her concerns. It went as far as saying “this is a white city, in a white county, with a white university for white people” and to go back south if the blacks didn’t like the way they were being treated.
The letters died down for some months, while the Black Caucus was pushing for an increase in African-American studies. As the caucus became more vocal, the letters once again started, but this time made threats to the caucus president’s life and other minority students. The letters also made references to her being stalked, gave the location of a dead black male to be found on Mount Nittany and finally threatened a bombing of the graduation.
That letter was received on April 20 of this year and was turned over to the FBI and local police.
Subsequent survey of the Mount Nittany area did not turn up a dead body, but a week after the letter was received a black male was found dead about 20 miles off campus near the town of Snow Shoe.
University police have dismissed any connections, but students on campus have attacked the police’s dismissal.
In response to this, around 500 students have moved into the campus’ student center demanding a continued push for diversification on campus as well as increased security measures. Throughout this time, student leaders are meeting with the university’s administration to work out details of their requests.
Students are asking for pat-downs and metal detectors at the May 12 graduation ceremony, but the university is staying tight-lipped about exactly what those measures will be.
During the Penn State’s annual Blue and White game, about 40 students rushed the football field to bring attention to the events taking place. They were eventually removed and charged with trespassing.
The university has posted a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect and the Alumni Association has added $5,000 to that.