Fifty-seven bomb threats in two months strain University of Pittsburgh students

Alex Myers Contributor
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Normally, students love when there is a bomb threat or fire drill because it means a break from class. However, University of Pittsburgh students, after 57 bomb threats since mid-February, have had enough.

According to the New York Times, the threats have disrupted several students’ lives so significantly that they were forced to find housing off-campus just a few weeks before the end of the semester.

The first threat came on February 13 in the form of a written note on the wall of a public women’s restroom.

Since then, there have been 56 more — some written on walls and others in the form of anonymous emails to Pittsburgh news outlets. There were 12 threats on Monday alone.

Police investigators, corresponding with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, said they have found no explosives but are looking to find the source of the threats.

Each time a threat is discovered, students have to be evacuated from buildings and sometimes must spend hours outside.

Because of the severity of the situation, the university has set up new security measures that students say are causing distress. Before entering any building on campus, students and faculty members are required to open their bags for inspection.

One student, Evan Fitzpatrick, said it was such a hassle to wait in the long checkpoint lines that he just brought a notebook and pencil with him to class on Monday to avoid them.

“I have to admit, it made me a little bit uneasy to know that the place you sleep could be threatened,” he said.

Some students have waited a half hour or more to get through the inspections. Student Alexander Cull said a test was interrupted by an evacuation and now has to take his tests online.

Cull has been offering friends places to live at his off-campus apartment and other students have set up Facebook pages or Google Docs to advertise alternative living situations.

Another university student told The Daily Caller that many students yesterday were hopeful that the threats would stop, having 24 hours go by without one, but then it started again at 4 a.m. Students had to leave their buildings and stand in the cold.

“The worst part is the distraction it has caused. It’s hard to avoid thinking about it,” he said, “[but] if there is any silver-lining to this chaos, it is that the university has become closer.”

He said upperclassmen have been opening their apartments to those living in University housing and there has been a collective effort to buy PetCo gift cards for the K-9 unit involved in the search. Students have also started a banner signing to give to the Pittsburgh Police Department as a thank you.

“Facebook, Reddit, and a blog  have become a virtual hangout for Pitt students to share information and provide encouragement,” the student told TheDC, “Hopefully it will be over soon!”

University of Pittsburgh spokesman Robert Hill said security measures have been increased, with more surveillance cameras and foot patrols. Bomb-sniffing canine teams routinely visit campus to search for bombs.

The school is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

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Alex Myers