(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – An unlikely suspect was identified and charged last Tuesday as the author of the racist hate mail that caused an evacuation of minority students at Trinity International University outside of Chicago.
Alicia Harden, a 19-year-old black student, was attempting to scare her mother into letting her transfer to a Mississippi school when she wrote these letters, two to other black students, and one to a Hispanic student, according to officials.
The letters sent the community of the small Evangelical Christian college into an uproar. Officials encouraged approximately 200 minority students to leave their dorms after the third letter was received. Authorities were concerned that the growing threats of violence came unnervingly close to the anniversaries of the Columbine school shooting, the Oklahoma City bombing, and Hitler’s birthday.
Forty-three black and Hispanic students spent the Thursday night at a nearby hotel, while others stayed with relatives close by. Of the 1,104 undergraduate students, 14 percent are black, and 4 percent Hispanic.
Reverend Jesse L. Jackson met with students that Friday afternoon, praising the university’s response to the situation.
“What is painful to me today is to talk to these students — so young, so beautiful — who feel like a target is on their back because they are black. Today their faith is tested in real time. Will they face evil with courage or will they face evil with fear?” he said to reporters, who were largely confined to a building and barred from speaking with most students last week.
Alicia Harden was charged with a hate crime and ordered held on a $5,000 bond. She did not explain her allegations in court, but told the judge she was on anti-anxiety medication. She has also been arrested for battery and criminal damage to property in 1998 or 1999.
“We are heartbroken by this revelation because we consider each student a member of our family,” said university spokeswoman Melissa Stratis last week.