A plea of not guilty was entered on Monday for a 21-year-old man charged with disturbing the peace by making threats through social media against black fellow students at Michigan Technological University, court officials and his attorney said.
Matthew Allen Shultz declined to enter a plea to the charge when asked to do so during a hearing, so a plea of not guilty was entered for him by the judge in Houghton County District Court in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, near Lake Superior, court officials and his lawyer Tony Ruiz said.
Michigan Tech, a state university, has an enrollment of about 7,000 students, 82 of whom are black. Shultz, arrested on Thursday night, is a third-year student studying mechanical engineering, a school spokeswoman said.
The nature of the alleged threat he made has not been disclosed. The school has given Shultz an interim suspension and banned him from campus while the incident is investigated.
Ruiz said Schultz, of Norway, Michigan, has not seen any evidence against him.
"I would ask that judgment be reserved until more information is obtained," Ruiz said in an email.
"What I can say is that Mr. Schultz never intended to threaten or cause harm to anyone and is opposed to any action that would disrupt the harmony and peacefulness on Michigan Tech's campus. Regardless of the legal outcome, Mr. Schultz is now facing the serious collateral consequences of these events," Ruiz added.
After Monday's hearing, the school said in a statement that it took the threat "very seriously" and provided all relevant information to the prosecutor.
"We hope that whatever is done now reflects the feelings of the community regarding the seriousness of the situation," the school said.
On Sunday, about 200 students, faculty, staff and local residents marched to the Houghton County Courthouse, observing a moment of silence and protesting the charge against Schultz as too lenient, the school spokeswoman said.
The threat follows others also targeting black students made last week in Missouri through the Yik Yak social media messaging app, which allows users to post anonymously. The incidents have raised tensions on U.S. university campuses and led students to protest what they see as school officials' lenient approach toward racial abuse.
Protests at the University of Missouri this month led to the resignations of the school's president and chancellor for their handling of race issues. Two men were arrested in Missouri on charges of threatening violence against black students.
Some students at the University of South Carolina in Columbia planned to walk out of class on Monday as part of a protest against what they described in an online petition as inequalities faced by minority groups at the school.
The petition, titled "Here's No Place Like Home," said the students supported their peers at the University of Missouri but were making a dozen demands for change that reflected the specific problems experienced at their own university.
In addition, more than 200 signatures were collected for a petition calling for the resignation of three University of Kansas elected student leaders accused by other students as well as alumni of failing to take meaningful action, advocate for, respect and support black and other minority students.
(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit, Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Bill Trott and Will Dunham)