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*This story appeared in the 2010 Joke Issue.

Panic spread like wildfire across campus Monday night as about 1,500 students received a UPennAlert text message issued by the Division of Public Safety containing a single abrupt imperative: “ruuuuun!!!!!11!1!!”

Retracted a mere 15 minutes after its release, the alert prompted a mass exodus involving not only the 1,500 recipients but also friends and acquaintances who had been informed of the message’s contents, in addition to curious Philadelphians who happened to be near campus.

“There was this enormous crowd heading toward 30th Street Station,” recalled an eyewitness, whose iPad was trampled in the chaos. “I had to see what was going on.”

Most students who attempted to flee campus last night were similarly bewildered by DPS’s cryptic warning.

“When DPS sends out an alert, they mean business,” said Nursing sophomore Heyrann Doe. “When I got that text message, I didn’t need to be told twice to get off campus.”

According to a senior DPS officer who preferred to remain unnamed, the alert was issued shortly after DPS’s annual staff bonding BYO, which had been held at headquarters from 10 p.m. to “a little after midnight.”

“People were starting to get really rowdy in the conference room,” he said. “At one point someone suggested we mess with [students] a little.”

He left before he could bear further witness to the antics of his inebriated colleagues.

Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush announced publicly following the alert that while the message had been issued “in error,” she nevertheless “remains proud of the alacrity and vigilance the Penn community demonstrated in its response.”

Once identified, she said, the individual responsible for the message will be penalized accordingly.

“Frankly, things got a little out of hand,” she said.

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