Dan Master | News & Features Editor
Since February 13th the University of Pittsburgh has been rocked by dozens of bomb threats that have caused numerous evacuations of university buildings and widespread unease. To investigate the threats, several agencies have been dispatched to the investigation, such as the FBI, the Justice Department, and the University of Pittsburgh Police Department. At this point the three investigating organizations have not referred to having leads on a specific suspect.
Authorities have yet to find a plausible bomb threat. That is to say there have been no bombs to back up the threats.
In an exclusive interview with the Gleaner, Pitt student Kevin Rauen, of the Pitt News, offered his insight as to what life is like for a student dealing with a campus under siege.
Rauen says that the students that have been hardest hit by the threats are those who live in on-campus housing. Since the Office of Residence Life at Pitt needs to consider each threat as a worst case scenario, students are required to evacuate at all hours of the day and night.
“The dormitories on campus are constantly receiving threats at all hours. Receiving threats in the middle of the night is most common, because then students are required to immediately evacuate between 2am and 4am, don’t regain access to their building until 6am or 7am and then need to go about their school-day, which will then be interrupted throughout the day,” Rauen said.
Students living off-campus are at an advantage for the fact that the architect of these “attacks” has sectioned off his scares to that of university property only.
“Living off campus has been a saving grace here. I haven’t really had to alter my life too much,” Rauen said.
The everyday flow of a regular school-day has been unmistakably interrupted by the threats. With the myriad of evacuations of academic buildings, dorms, and other campus facilities, many professors have decreed that attendance for their classes is not mandatory and have even, in some cases, offered alternatives to final exams to accommodate the safety and security of their students.
“Attendance is now not required for any class. No professor can mandate you to attend. Many professors are offering alternatives for end of semester projects and finals, etc,” Rauen said.
Even though there has not been a threat of a shooting, a growing concern is beginning to mount on the forefront of the campus’ consciousness with the anniversaries of Columbine and Virginia Tech. approaching. For a potential shooter, the massive amount of evacuations would create thousands of easy targets and a possibility of mass hysteria.
“The students are actually worried about a shooting…With VT and Columbine anniversaries coming up, it is tough to ignore that possibility,” Rauen said. “Some websites have also surfaced coming from students, previous students, etc., who had bad experiences with the university and are glamourizing the VT and Columbine events and praising that outcome. It is getting concerning.”
Rauen thinks that the university administration is doing all it can to help alleviate the pains of such a large amount of threats. As a reward for information concerning the situation, the administration is offering $50,000 to anyone who can help. And since there are 2-4 threats a day that come in waves of 3-5 that each cost $20,000-60,000, the $50,000 is chump change in the long run.
“The University also has an outstanding reward of $50,000 to anyone who can present information leading to the arrest of the threator,” Kevin said. “So, they are doing all they can. It has been reported that each threat costs the University between $20,000-$60,000 in manpower etc. to clear a building. Given that we receive threats in waves of 3-5, and at a rate of 2-4 waves a day… this is likely to present a serious cost issue at some point.”
In an online message to the university community, Chancellor Nordenberg emphasized the on-going effort to maintain his campus’ safety in the face of the “unending succession of bomb threats.”
“Our highest priority has been the safety of the Pitt community,” Chancellor Nordenberg said.
As a testament to the university’s effort to maintain the safety of its students, there has been a decision that would allow students to actually end their semester early to escape the potential dangers of living and learning on-campus.
“The University is also allowing students to end the semester early. For myself, I have had one class end and the professor gave everyone a minimum grade of a B. So I would say, the University is definitely trying to work with the situation,” Rauen said.
The university is definitely doing all it can to keep the campus community safe. However, until a suspect is uncovered and the bomb threats stop, the minds of students, faculty, and staff will continue to be a hotbed of uncertainty.