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The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Former UNI student facing charges following threats

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COURTESY
A former UNI student has been arrested following alleged threats towards administrators.

A former UNI student is facing charges for allegedly harassing school officials and threatening to shoot a university employee.

The most recent charges allege Aisha Ahamad Nyala, 25, used an Instagram account with the username @UNIYogaClub to harass UNI’s dean of students, Allyson Rafanello, and the vice president of student life, Heather Harbach.

According to the Instagram account’s official page the club is, “a place for students to come together to increase their knowledge and skills in yoga.”

Posts on the account began in 2021 with yoga related content, but shifted in July 2023 with posts criticizing the university’s handling of sexual assault complaints. 

A post on Dec. 29, 2023 reads, “The Dean of students and title IX coordinator at the University of Northern Iowa have stripped my dignity, womanhood, and human rights.”

Another post reads from Aug. 28, 2023, “The mistreatment I received from the University of Northern Iowa was arguably worse than the sexual assault itself. You can’t even heal in peace when you’re being mistreated by degenerate faculty members that will do anything to protect their reputations.”

A screenshot from @UNIYogaClub’s Instagram account. (UNI YOGA CLUB)

The UNI Yoga Club posts are allegations and their validity has not been confirmed by authorities.

According to records, Cedar Falls police found Nyala had linked her personal Instagram account to the yoga account.

According to a criminal complaint, on Dec. 29 the Cedar Falls Patrol took a report of threatening messages sent to UNI staff members. They spoke with the person who filed the complaint, and provided authorities with multiple anonymous social media accounts that had threatened and harassed her and her family. 

A screenshot taken from @UNIYogaClub’s Instagram account. (UNI YOGA CLUB)

They observed a Sept. 25 post with a comment that read, “It’s disgusting and frightening how Allyson Rafanello can abuse students then have control over their transcript. Too many while (sic) women in academia navigate like slave owners.”

Police say Nyala used an alternate Facebook account to threaten Allyson Rafanello and her husband, Nicholas Rafanello, UNI’s executive director of housing and dining. According to court records, the account was eventually linked to Nyala’s home address. She posted messages and photos in November saying, “I will get someone to deal with you” and “I will make sure that what you’ve done comes back to haunt you.”

In January, UNI officials received a student complaint online reading in part, “I promise that I will get revenge on you if it’s the last thing I do. That’s something I’m willing to dedicate my entire life to … my new studies will be how to successfully get revenge.”

Nyala was first arrested in January and charged with intimidation with a dangerous weapon—a Class C felony, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison—after allegedly placing a phone call to the Iowa Board of Regents regarding a complaint she had filed. During the call, she allegedly threatened to “shoot that woman in the head” if action was not taken. She was released pending trial. 

She was arrested for the second time in early February, for harassing UNI officials through the aforementioned alternate Facebook account. She was charged with five counts of first-degree harassment, each charge carrying a penalty of up to two years in prison, and three counts of stalking by use of a technological device, also a Class C felony.

Her latest charges came this Monday for 11 counts of stalking by use of a technological device, one count of misdemeanor first-degree harassment and 11 counts of misdemeanor third-degree harassment. Bond was set at $112,000. 

Prosecutors handling the case have sought restraining orders to protect Allyson Rafanello and Heather Harbach. 



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CAROLINE CHRISTENSEN, Executive Editor

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