Citing threats, many blacks leave SSU for weekend


SALISBURY -- It was supposed to be a weekend of football and barbecues at Salisbury State University, but for many of the school's black students it was time to pack a suitcase and leave town.

"You won't find many of my friends here," said Lisa Smith, president of the Union of African-American Students and one of several blacks who were told to "beware" of Oct. 30 by an anonymous telephone caller this month.

The threats, accompanied by racial epithets, heightened tensions on a campus already on edge about a rumored psychic prediction that a massacre would take place here yesterday.

The calls targeted blacks only, who make up about 6 percent of the school's nearly 6,000 students.

As of late yesterday, Salisbury State was peaceful. All-day rains kept most students indoors, although hundreds of parents visited the campus for the school's annual family weekend activities.

Will Wells, a junior from Baltimore, said many blacks had planned to leave campus for social functions at Howard University and the nearby University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne. But, he added, others left because their parents were concerned about them.

When Setenia Smith learned that her daughter Lisa had received one of the threatening calls, she asked her to spend yesterday night at the family's Catonsville home.

"I was really frightened and very concerned," Setenia Smith said. "As hard as I tried not to, I felt a little anger set in. I thought our society had gone beyond this."

Some students, like Mr. Wells, opted to stay at the school to show they could not be intimidated by threats, whether prank or real.

"I don't usually run away from anything," he said. "I'm not going to run away from this. If this is somebody's way of trying to get us to leave, it's not working on me."

Mr. Wells said some good may come of the threats, because they appear to have aroused an anti-racist movement at the school.

University administrators said they believe the threatening calls were made by one male student who may have been intoxicated when he dialed the on-campus numbers on Oct. 14.

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