Hannah Rosenberg/Sun Photography Editor

Students call on greater action by the University after receiving two emergency alerts within 48 hours last week.

November 16, 2021

Students Process Last Week’s Threats Of Violence, Call For More Understanding From University

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“This again?” Elliot Walsh ’24 said. 

For the second time in about 48 hours, Walsh and thousands of other Cornellians received an emergency Cornell alert on Tuesday. This time, he had received notice that local police were pursuing a man with a gun in Cayuga Heights near North Campus.  

“Are you kidding me, like seriously?” Cameron White ’24 said, reflecting on last week’s events.

After students were hit with emergency alerts two days last week, many students are still processing days marked by shock and confusion.

On Sunday, the alert system told students to evacuate Central Campus as local, state and national authorities investigated a bomb threat, which was later found not credible. And on Tuesday, students received notice of local police pursuing a man with a gun in Cayuga Heights — when the Cornell alert system told people on North Campus to shelter in place, lock their doors and avoid the area. 

“On Sunday, when I first got the alarm, my heart literally just dropped into my stomach because there was no detail,” Mannayah Louis ’24 said. She was in the Cornell House of Prayer at the time and stayed there to pray with friends after receiving the alert.

She and other students said they wished they received more information from the University about the severity of the threat. After Tuesday’s news, she said her reaction was more so of disbelief.

Kevin Cui ’25 was sitting outside Toni Morrison Hall on North Campus when he received the Tuesday news. By the time Cornell lifted the shelter-in-place order at 7:13 p.m. Tuesday, the University had already postponed all exams scheduled for that night, which included the one in Cui’s economics class. Cui said he thought the University had students’ interests in mind, but others disagreed. 

Louis is a member of the Student Assembly and, along with all other S.A. members, signed a Nov. 10 letter with demands for the University, including a commitment to postponing exams after “serious and credible threats of violence,” “more robust emergency procedures” and better communication from Cornell.

On Sunday, the administration’s first statement to the Cornell community came from Joel Malina, Vice President for University relations, who clarified that the bomb threat was a “hoax” and that the University would resume “normal operations.” 

“Something from an instantly recognizable name would have been nice right off the bat,” said Kiera Foley ’23, who wasn’t familiar with who Malina was and thought the University wasn’t clear in its communication.

President Martha Pollack made her first statement on Tuesday — in a message to the Cornell community entitled “Reflecting on our stressful last few days,” which included information on two community support meetings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Annabel Baniak ’24 said a lack of clarity helped feed rumors during both threats. 

“Everyone started freaking out about things that weren’t actually happening,” Baniak said. 

On social media, some students worried that the gunman referenced by police was an active shooter. According to The Ithaca Voice, as of Tuesday night, police said the shooting was between two specific groups of people, and they did not believe the suspect was a threat to the public. 

Some students wished the University had canceled classes last week or designated more time for mental health in the wake of both events. Louis said the University’s response was “unacceptable” and thought her fellow students and understanding faculty and staff did more ease the stress of living through two anxiety-inducing events.

“We’re people, not machines,” Louis said. “We’re people, and we have to acknowledge that we live in a world that is unpredictable and need time to respond to it.”