By: Rebecca Panico| Published Dec. 2, 2015
After an African-American Kean graduate was charged in connection with making Twitter threats against black students yesterday, a coalition of ministers is continuing to call for the resignation of President Dawood Farahi.
“I called for his resignation after the Twitter feed but not because of the Twitter feed,” said Rev. Ronald Slaughter of the Saint James AME Church in Newark, who has been speaking on behalf of several ministers since Nov. 18.
Kayla-Simone McKelvey, 24, was charged on a third-degree count of creating a false public alarm after allegedly posting threats on Twitter that threatened to shoot black students and claimed that a bomb was on campus, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace Park said in a statement yesterday.
McKelvey – a 2015 graduate, former head of the Pan African Student Union at Kean and the 2014 Homecoming queen – was a participant in Nov. 17’s rally in support of University of Missouri students.
The coalition came out with its demand less than a day after the Twitter threats were made and the university remained open because the Farahi said the threats were “unsubstantiated.”
Rev. Slaughter said the coalition wants Farahi to resign because of “the culture of racism and the fact that it trickled down to the students.”
Slaughter cited a “culture of intimidation” on campus and also referred to discrimination lawsuits, such as the recent legal settlement with a former Kean employee, Sherrell S. Holderman, who claimed she was “coerced” into retirement because of her age, race and gender.
In a statement on Nov. 18, the university said Rev. Slaughter was “trying to politicize the important issues of social justice and inequality.” Chair of the Kean’s Board of Trustees Governance Committee Linda Lewis said the coalition “lacks scrutiny.”
“I am offended that this group would issue such an inflammatory statement without knowing anything about Dr. Farahi or Kean University. I take it as a personal insult,” Lewis said in a statement. “This coalition lacks scrutiny. I don’t know them or who they represent, and no one listed as a member has ever approached me to find out a single thing about Kean.”
The ministers’ charges got the attention of state legislators who held a closed-door meeting with them, Farahi and members of Kean’s board of Trustees in Trenton on Nov.21.
Rev. Slaughter claims that the group decided that the Trustees would vote on a resolution at its next meeting on Dec. 5 to investigate hiring and firing practices at Kean and how money has been allocated to African American students.
The university did not confirm that such a decision was reached.
“Dr. Farahi and members of Kean University Board of Trustees had the opportunity to dialogue today on an important subject – social justice – and the dialogue will continue,” Kean spokesperson Margaret McCorry said in an e-mail on Nov. 25.
McKelvey, a self-proclaimed activist, allegedly left the Nov. 17 rally to walk to the campus library to use a computer to make the Twitter threats, the prosecutor charged.
“After making the posts, McKelvey immediately returned to the rally and attempted to spread awareness of the threats she allegedly had just fabricated,” the prosecutor’s statement read.
In a statement emailed to all students yesterday, Farahi said he was “saddened” by the prosecutor’s announcement.
“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,” his statement read. “We hope this information will begin to bring a sense of relief and security to the campus community.”
Rev. Slaughter, who said that several Kean students are members of his church, said he was not familiar with McKelvey, but “if Kayla did that she is downright wrong for doing that.”
McKelvey is set to make a first appearance in the case on Dec. 14 at the Union County Jail courtroom.