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Cornell cancels classes after student is charged with threatening Jewish people on campus

FILE - A woman walks by a Cornell University sign on the Ivy League school's campus in Ithaca, New York, on Jan. 14, 2022. Cornell University administrators dispatched campus police to a Jewish center after threatening statements appeared on a discussion board Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Cornell University has canceled classes on Friday after a student was charged with making online antisemitic threats against Jewish people on campus.

Cornell junior Patrick Dai, 21, has been charged with posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications after authorities say he made threatening comments on an online Greek Life forum over the weekend. He was held without bail following his first appearance in federal court.

The statements prompted officials to send police to guard a Jewish center and kosher dining hall as unnerved students feared for their safety. Cornell Hillel, a Jewish campus organization, advised students and staff to avoid the dining hall “in an abundance of caution.”

A spokeswoman at the Ivy League school said the decision to close on Friday was made “in recognition of the extraordinary stress of the past few weeks.” Faculty and nonessential staff will also be excused from work.

There has been a swell of both antisemitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric online amid the Israel-Hamas war.

Meeting with Jewish students from Baltimore-area colleges on Thursday, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said he was “appalled and horrified” by incidents of antisemitism on campuses across the country. Cardona said his department is preparing a letter to guide university leaders as they work to protect students from discrimination.

“I want to tell you, we’ve got your back,” Cardona told roughly two dozen students who gathered at Towson University. “The Department of Education is going to do everything we can to make sure you’re safe on campus.”

Authorities tracked the threats to Dai through an IP address. He has admitted to law enforcement that he posted the messages, according to a criminal complaint.

One of the posts was titled “gonna shoot up 104 west,” a dining hall at Cornell that caters to kosher diets and is next to the school's Jewish center, authorities said. He also threatened to bring a rifle to campus to shoot Jewish people.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Nov. 15. Dai's federal public defender, Gabrielle DiBella, has not responded to a request for comment on Dai's behalf.

In a statement on Cornell's website, college President Martha E. Pollack said “while we take some measure of relief in knowing that the alleged author of the vile antisemitic posts that threatened our Jewish community is in custody, it was disturbing to learn that he was a Cornell student.”

Dai has been suspended from Cornell.