The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Over a dozen American universities received bomb threats within the past ten days, though no explosives were found at any of the threatened sites.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations is still examining the apparent hoaxes.

"We're working with the college and university police and the local police to investigate these matters," FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said. "Due to today's world, none of these threats can be taken lightly."

Schools have been especially on edge since last April's shootings at Virginia Tech, and many universities - including Penn - have instituted emergency alert systems in the event of a scare.

The Massachusetts Instiute of Technology and Princeton, Cornell and Carnegie Mellon universities were among the campuses targeted.

Kolko declined to comment on whether the FBI thought the threats could be related.

It is not unusual for so many threats to be received in such a short period of time, said Loren Coleman, the author of The Copycat Effect.

"I think what we generally find is there are waves of these situations where copycats do occur, and they come in clusters," Coleman said.

Vice President of Public Safety Maureen Rush said Penn rarely receives bomb threats.

The last one occurred last fall, when certain buildings of the Quadrangle were evacuated while police specialists responded to a bomb threat in the SEPTA line that runs underneath the area.

In the case of a threat, Rush said, building administrators and the police would be notified by PennComm, and police would then determine the level of threat and decide the appropriate course of action.

"We always err on the side of caution," Rush said, "but we try not to be trigger happy."

Police and security forces responded to the recent threats by sweeping certain buildings and sometimes evacuating them, though many of the threats did not specify which buildings were being targeted.

At M.I.T., for instance, the threat received did not mention any specific location on campus.

Officials at Princeton said the number of threats actually allayed their fears.

"After learning that there were other universities [that received threats, it] actually reinforced in our minds that it was not a credible threat," Princeton spokeswoman Cass Cliatt said.

Mario Scalora, a professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an expert on threat assessment, agrees that in many cases the threats are not worthy of a full-fledged response.

"If someone really wants to hurt you, they're not going to tell you in advance," he noted. "You take them all seriously because the threat still could materialize, but you have to take a bigger-picture look at things."

But with the sixth anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaching, Scalora suspects that the flow of hoaxes will not abate anytime soon.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.