Tweets threatening violence against black people at Kean University, roiling the school and sparking criticism of campus leadership, were sent by a black alumna who is an activist, authorities said.
The Union County Prosecutor's Office announced Tuesday that it had charged Kayla-Simone McKelvey, 24, of Union Township, with creating a false public alarm.
McKelvey made the anonymous Twitter account, @keanuagainstblk, during a student rally Nov. 17, the Prosecutor's Office said.
McKelvey left the demonstration, walked to a computer station in a Kean library, and began posting threats of violence.
"i will kill all the blacks tonight, tomorrow and any other day if they go to Kean university," one tweet read.
"i will kill every black male and female at kean university," read another.
McKelvey, who graduated from Kean this year with a bachelor's degree in physical education, "immediately returned to the rally and attempted to spread awareness of the threats she allegedly had just fabricated," the Prosecutor's Office said in a statement.
The ruse worked, and controversy enveloped the campus. Some students criticized the university's leaders for what they said was an insufficient response and allowing a climate of racial tension; a coalition of black ministers called for president Dawood Farahi to resign.
At a previously scheduled campus event Tuesday, Farahi said a "threat assessment" had found that the tweets did not significantly endanger campus safety.
Relaying that information could have compromised the investigation, he said. The decision to keep the campus open after the tweets were discovered was criticized by some students, who said they felt unsafe.
Kean sent a message to students, staff, and faculty Tuesday announcing the charges against McKelvey. In the message, the university highlighted its diversity and noted that its counseling center is open for students.
"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," the statement reads.
"We hope this information will begin to bring a sense of relief and security to the campus community."
The Prosecutor's Office said "there was never any actual plan to harm students." McKelvey's first court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 14 in the Union County Jail courtroom.