Racially motivated hate mail led school officials at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois, to move dozens of minority students off its Bannockburn campus on Thursday.
The evacuation took place after students had received three anonymous letters through the school's internal mail system in the last two weeks — the third of which threatened physical violence, according to a university spokesperson, who shot down rumors that the letters had anything to do with opposing interracial dating.
Minorities make up nearly 25 percent of Trinity's student population, and the hate mail was said to be addressed specifically to Latino and black students.
While the evangelical Christian university declined to comment on the details of the threats or when the students would return to their on-campus housing, officials issued a statement Friday saying that they "decided to act with the utmost precaution to ensure the safety of our students."
Kevin Tracz, Bannockburn Police Chief, told The Associated Press that the school became concerned when the threats came within days of the anniversaries of the shootings at Columbine High School and the Oklahoma City bombing. "[The university] didn't want to take any chances, and I agree with them," he said.
More than 40 students spent the night at a nearby hotel, while the others stayed with family or friends. Some students chose to stay on campus despite the threats.
Dean of Students William Washington spent the night with the students off campus and described their attitude as "upbeat, appreciative, and eager for things to get back to normal on campus."
"Our minority students feel a sense of security knowing that their concerns have been seriously addressed by the administrators of the college," Washington said in a statement. "As you know, the physical and emotional well-being of our students is our greatest concern and we are taking every possible step to ensure their safety."
So far, there are no specific leads as to the writer's identity, officials said, but professors are being asked to help identify the handwriting on the letters. Meanwhile, campus security, local police and the FBI are investigating the case.
Classes remain in session.