A black student at the University of Virginia withdrew as a candidate in student government elections after anonymous telephone callers threatened to kill her and subjected her to racial slurs, her running mate said yesterday.
Karen Rose, a sophomore from the District of Columbia, was referred to as a "nigger bitch" in the calls, according to Ron Suskind, her running mate in the student elections.
Suskind said Rose did not want to publicly disclose the reasons for her decision because she doesn't want "to encourage this kind of activity by terrorist-type idiots."
Suskind, 20, who is Jewish, said he also had received death threats from six anonymous callers who called him a "Hebe" and have warned him to withdraw as a candidate for president of the student body in the College of Arts and Sciences or "we'll fry your ass." Suskind said he intends to remain in the race.
Suskind said he attributed the threats to his campaign platform, which calls for reforming the rules of the university's 138-year-old honor system. Rose was a candidate for vice president with Suskind.
Rose's brother, John Rose Jr., 17 said in a telephone interview from Washington that he learned about the threats to his sister from news broadcasts. Rose's father is a stockbroker in Washington and her mother is a librarian at the State Department, her brother said.
"The university deplores the threatening calls made to our students," William H. Fishback Jr., director of university relations, said in a statement released late today. Fishback called Rose and Suskind "two outstanding young people," and said university police are cooperating with Charlottesville city police in investigating the phone calls.
Suskind, a third-year government major from Wilmington, Del., said he talked to police Sunday, and they said they would monitor his phone if the calls were continued. He said he had not received any calls since last Thursday.
"It shocked the hell out of me," Suskind said. "I've never been threatened before."
He said when he announced his campaign pledge to reform the honor system that other students warned him that he might be threatened.
As president, Suskind said, his main job would be to serve on the university's student honor committee. The university's honor system is one of the few in the country that requires expulsion of students found guilty of lying, cheating, or stealing. Suskind said his platform calls for one year suspensions of first offenders instead of expulsion, a change that studies have shown is popular among most students but one that is opposed by "traditionalists."
The three-day election will be held this week.
Rose dropped out of the race last week, saying that she didn't have the time to devote that the job required. But, Suskind said, "the straw that broke the camel's back" was the phone calls she received.
Rose's experience is not the first for blacks at the university.
In the late 1970s, a black student, Kendrix, M. Easley, complained to the U.S. Office of Civil Rights that racial discrimination permeated student life at the school.
Easley, who was one of the first blacks to chair the prestigious honor committee, said the honor code was used as a means of discrimination against blacks and that black students were targets of physical threats from white students.
Federal officials, after an investigation, dismissed Easley's complaint, saying the accusations were essentially "without merit."