The University of Pittsburgh has received over 60 anonymous bomb threats since the beginning of February, including threats Thursday morning and 12 threats Monday.
The threats have caused students at Slippery Rock University to evaluate their safety.
“[SRU] is definitely safer than Pitt because it’s smaller and it’s not in the middle of the city,” said junior accounting and marketing double-major Kelly Clark. “I think Pitt is being targeted because it’s such a big university in the middle of a city and there would be a lot of people that they would get if they actually did something with it.”
Assistant Vice President for Student Services at SRU, Dr. John Bonando said that the last time that SRU faced a bomb threat was about ten years ago. The police were contacted by a student about the threat in North Hall at about 2 a.m. The student was quickly caught and arrested by the police.
The consequences of giving a bomb threat are very severe, Bonando stated. The offending student would receive a permanent dismissal from SRU, the threat would be cited on the student’s permanent record, and there would be harsh criminal penalties.
“I really don’t think that any school can be one-hundred percent safe from bomb threats,” said Stephen Wetzel, a junior professional writing major. “I’m sure that there are measures that [the university] takes to limit those occurrences.”
The staff and faculty have yearly training exercises on campus to prepare the group for various emergency situations, Bonando said. The people who are involved with these drills include the President, the Vice President, the Directors, the SRU police, the borough police, the Butler County Emergency Hazmats, the Pa. Emergency Management Agency, the Butler County Red Cross, and the Fire Department.
“You must take every threat seriously, and you must react to every threat as if it were real because you never know if it’s real or if it’s not,” Bonando said. “The way that we train people is – you need to react as if one of your children or one of your loved ones is involved and if you do that, you can’t go wrong.”
One of the recent drills included responding to a bomb threat at a packed football game, while handling a fire that broke out at Watson Hall at the same time. Bonando said that this allows the university to be properly prepared for a variety of emergency situations.
“At the point where a staff member gets involved with an incident, they’re not going to meet the person who they need to help them for the first time at the incident,” explained Bonando. “They will know each other, they will have trained together, they will have had lunch together, they will know exactly what they’re doing.”
The Student Life Division gave copies of the Personal Emergency Guidebook to all SRU staff and faculty which serves as a quick reference about what to do in case of an emergency such as a bomb threat, explained Bonando.
The guidebook gives advice like to keep calm, try to find as much information as you can, take notes about the treat, and call the SRU Police immediately.
In addition to Personal Emergency Guidebook given to professors, Bonando said that new professors also used to get a little bit of emergency training via a presentation at faculty orientations.
“I think every institution can advance their prevention and how they go about protecting students from such threats,” said English literature senior Sarah Browne. “Most of all, it’s about communication and communication systems. Once a threat is heard or even believed, if it’s investigated and communicated, that is usually the best prevention.”
Bonando stated that preparation is the key to safety in emergency situations.
“I think the university is well prepared to handle any incidents that may occur,” Bonando said. “We have attempted to think of anything that could possibly go wrong, write policies and procedures, and then train on those policies and procedures. That’s the best we can do.”
University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg released a statement Sunday detailing the new heightened security measures on Pitt’s campus.
All of the buildings were examined for bombs and then were reopened with limited access. Buildings now only have one entrance, with security checkpoints.
The police require all book bags to be checked before entering any buildings. Also, non-Pitt students are no longer allowed in residence halls.
Pitt spokesperson Robert Hill said that the the university is doing everything they can to keep students safe. The amount of police on foot patrol has increased, as well as the number of surveillance cameras.
Pitt biology sophomore Zarreen Amin says that lots of students and faculty are taking the threats very seriously. Lots of students have chosen to move off campus, some deciding to leave for the semester.
Because so many students have left campus, most professors are offering online finals rather than having them in classrooms.