A threat of potential violence on Monday kept anxieties on campus running high, leading some Penn professors to cancel classes and some students afraid to even leave their dorms.
A recent social media post threatened violence against an unspecified Philadelphia area university on Monday at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. The Division of Public Safety emailed members of the Penn community on Sunday afternoon, informing them that there would be heightened security across campus and encouraging students, faculty and staff to be cautious and aware of their surroundings.
After a day of preparation, 2:00 p.m. came and went without any reported violence, but speculations from students have varied. Some believe that the threat was in fact hinting at a terrorist attack, while others felt the threat was too ambiguous to cause significant danger.
Many expressed on social media that the University prioritized its schedule over student's fears and safety.
Thanks @Penn for the support re: potential terrorist threats against my school Penn Walk has me covered w/ unarmed walking buddy so all good— mira nathanson (@miranathanson) October 5, 2015
The Facebook event “Not Going to Class” gained over 200 attendees throughout the day. The event page included a small blurb, "Not going to class because it is okay to be worried, it is okay to be afraid, and it is okay to value your life and take measures to stay safe after a threat has been made against it. Stay safe everyone, regardless of whether or not you go to class." The Community College of Philadelphia and Temple University had similar pages for students organizing to skip classes.
Other students were not as worried about the potential threat and felt the scare was overblown.
Provost Vincent Price and Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli sent out an email Monday morning stating, “There has been considerable news coverage of this situation, and it has understandably caused concern for many. While the University will operate on a normal schedule, we want you to know that the Division of Public Safety has increased our police and security officer patrols, as well as our virtual CCTV virtual patrols.”
The email continued to say that there was very limited knowledge about the validity of the threat.
Throughout the day, Philadelphia Police patrolled the campus. Officers were seen walking up and down Locust Walk, and a police car was parked outside of Stiteler Hall. Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush told The Philadelphia Inquirer that throughout the day, there were 15 reports of suspicious activity, but all were unfounded.
In the midst of midterm season, students expressed on social media that they didn't feel safe going to class. Some students even emailed professors to ask for their classes and tests to be postponed or canceled.
Despite Penn’s efforts to keep everything on its regular schedule, professors and departments made their own decisions about whether or not to hold class and postpone midterms.
Several recitation classes were canceled. Math 180 and Math 240 were canceled due to the threat. The entire Korean Department also did not hold any classes Monday.
Some professors canceled class altogether, and others said classes would be held but were optional. Communication 470 was first scheduled to take place on Monday despite the threat. Late Sunday night another email was sent out canceling the class and postponing lecture material.
The Accounting 101 and Statistics 431 in-class midterms scheduled for Monday were rescheduled to Wednesday. Office hours on Monday and Tuesday were subsequently canceled for Accounting 101. Professor Keith Niedermeier postponed his Marketing 101 quiz but still held class. However, a recording of the class was posted online for the students who elected not to go.
The Student Labor Action Project decided to push a protest for PILOTs — Payments in Lieu of Taxes — that was scheduled for Monday. The Wharton Behavioral Lab canceled research studies because of “unforeseen logistical issues,” according to emails sent to participants.
Many students were torn when deciding if going to class was worth the risk.
Do you go to class at 2pm and risk absolutely everything or do you skip class and suffer the academic consequences?— Gomian Konneh (@GomianKonneh) October 5, 2015
But others made light of the situation.
It might kill my vibe if I get shot during class tomorrow yes I'm subtweeting u penn— Phoebe Um (@pumstah) October 5, 2015
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