UMCP, justice officials meet to investigate threats to blacks

Police step up patrols on campus after letters

November 19, 1999|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

University of Maryland, College Park police met with the state police, U.S. Department of Justice, FBI and U.S. attorney's office yesterday to plan the investigation into threatening letters sent to black student leaders and organizations this week.

"We are going to be cooperating in investigating this matter while doing everything in our power to insure the safety of everyone living and working here," said Capt. Kenneth W. Krouse of the university police.

Noting the advice of the U.S. attorney's office, Krouse said no details of the investigation would be released until it is completed.

The president of the Student Government Association, Juliana A. Njoku, and Black Student Union Executive Administrative Officer Camille Adams received letters filled with racist epithets Tuesday, as did the offices of the Black Student Union and the Department of African-American Studies.

Krouse said that, with the help of state police, patrols on campus are being increased. Those threatened have been offered 24-hour escorts and 911 cell phones. He said no one has accepted a guard, but he expects to hand out several phones.

Krouse did not rule out the possibility, raised at a Wednesday night meeting that followed a rally protesting the letters, that the letters were the work of minority students who might hold a grudge against the campus leaders.

"We are looking into everything," he said.

A reward fund for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible reached $10,900 yesterday. Krouse said "several" tips had been received.

"I would hope that we could wrap this up quickly, but I think it will take a while," he said.

Students at the Wednesday meeting complained that these letters were the latest of a dozen threats and racist notes or e-mails since the opening of school in September.

"We responded to all of those," Krouse said. "We are now going back to see if there are any similarities to this incident."

Wednesday's meeting was marked by several exchanges between students who said the administration was ignoring their concerns and student leaders -- including those who received the letters -- who said they receive little support when they bring problems to the administration.

Njoku told the crowd she was tired of being criticized by students who only show up at rallies, but never to do student government work.

That was echoed yesterday in the offices of the Black Student Union. "We want to see who is going to be here after the cameras and microphones are gone," said Melanee Farrah, a senior who is first vice president of the BSU.

Farrah complained of a lack of attention by the administration to racist incidents: "Unless they think it's going to damage their reputation or somehow cost them money, affecting the university on a big scale, it doesn't get fast action."

Sun staff writer Candus Thomson also contributed to this article.

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