August 31, 2007

E-Mailed Bomb Threats Target Seven Colleges

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Cornell officials can take heart this week that they are not alone in dealing with on-campus bomb scares.
Since last Friday, at least seven universities across the country have received bomb threats similar to the e-mailed message that targeted Sage Hall Tuesday morning. Even at Princeton, where fall semester classes are still more than two weeks away, an e-mail has already threatened several of the campus’ academic buildings.
The peculiar similarities between many of the recent messages have drawn the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has begun to review the barrage of threats on its own. University officials at Cornell, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon and elsewhere conducted extensive building sweeps in response to e-mailed bomb threats, and each search turned up empty. In a recent article, Cass Cliatt, director of media relations at Princeton, told Inside Higher Ed that the similar experience of other universities this week “actually reinforced in our minds that it was not a credible threat.” Todd Simmons, director of news and communications services at Oregon State, said in the same article that the messages seemed to “[target] campuses across the country, like spam e-mails.”
Co­rnell and the Cornell University Po­­lice De­partment are currently wor­king with several law enforcement a­gencies, inclu­ding some at the federal level, to investigate Tuesday’s bomb scare at the Johnson School. Simeon Moss ’73, director of Cornell press relations, said that any similarities between the e-mail that threatened Sage Hall and messages that targeted other universities have not been released because the investigation is still ongoing.
The University did not utilize its new campus-wide emergency notification system Tuesday, but according to Moss, given the circumstances of the threat, “the [University] took the necessary precautions to [ensure campus safety].”
“A bomb threat is a serious matter,” Moss said, “and Cornell took it very seriously.”