The University of Pittsburgh's reaction to the recent string of bomb threats on campus will do little for students, staff and faculty but cause an inconvenience.
This is the email the University sent to students today:
"Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:
Let us begin by saying that we appreciate the grace and patience that each of you
has shown throughout these very challenging times. We are a great University
because we have dedicated and loyal members who are working together in amazing
As we begin to experience escalated evacuations, we have decided to take next steps
to heighten security measures on our campus. Beginning tomorrow, the University
will limit access to buildings once they have been swept and cleared. Not all
buildings will have limited access immediately, but over the next few days we expect
this will extend to all buildings.
To enter secured buildings, we all will need to present a University of Pittsburgh
ID card. It is important to understand that book bags, backpacks and packages will
not be allowed.
There will be single entrances to buildings so there will be longer waiting times to
get into the buildings. In addition, non-University of Pittsburgh residents will
not be allowed in the residence halls.
Please make sure you arrive to your building earlier than your usual arrival time to
accommodate this necessary security step. We will continue to evacuate and sweep
buildings when threats are received but these additional security measures will
reduce the amount o time needed to clear and reopen the buildings.
We have made it through many complicated situations before. Thank you for your
patience and dedication and know that we will get through this one together."
Besides the spelling error of "of" in the second to last paragraph, I'd like to point out a few things:
1) The idea of making us walk into class holding our books out for inspection as we show photo identification seems Orwellian, at best. At worst, it's going to feel like we’re inmates. Except, the prison isn't four cinderblock walls and miles of barbed wire - it’s a string of fake bomb threats that has bent our administration at the waist.
2) Newsflash: Having us show photo identification, wait in long lines and carry around our books isn't going to help an already stressful, tough academic time of the year. Not only will these new measures incite fear (reinforcing this phantom idea that there is an actual threat); it's going to cut down our already limited time with academics. We lose time in class with our professors and students. We lose time studying when the libraries are evacuated. Now, we're going to start losing more time while we wait in line and prepare to go through our day in a different manner.
3) This won't stop the threats. As has been reported, the bomb threats come from redirected email addresses that, thus far, have proved "untraceable." Why would our special friend stop sending these emails? Because the University has now officially shown it will crack and twist to terrorism? In all likelihood, this will only increase the ego (and ergo, the consistency) of the threats and the bomb threat maker's confidence in getting away with them. The measure's implications are obvious: they can't catch him, what they're doing isn't working, and now they're merely trembling.
I want to make it clear that I have an incredible amount of respect for our administration's handling of the situation. The stress and anxiety they must be going through is unimaginable. The same police force that saved so many lives by acting swiftly on the day of the Western Psych shootings is now doing its best to protect us, and that is nothing short of admirable. This has proved, by all accounts, an un-fixable matter.
I understand the idea that these new measures make our buildings more "bomb proof," but - similar to airport security - I have trouble believing it lowers the threat of there being any serious terroristic action. Does anyone actually believe there to be a bomb coming?
Worst case scenario, this disgruntled person happens to be gun yielding. In that case, this new action does little.
Best case scenario (and pretty much everything in between), this is a reasonably intelligent person who is seriously pissed off or crazy, working from home with no real plans, and these new measures do nothing.
But, while we – as students – should respect and sympathize with the incredibly tough situation our administration is in, we also need to evaluate their actions honestly. Are the most recent measures really the answer? This new development will only push more students away from class and home into hiding, showing our terrorist that we fear him more than we care for our schoolwork.
However, our actions should send the opposite message: We need to show that we, the students, care just as much about preserving the sanctity and importance of education as the person making these bomb threats cares to destroy it. Tell your administrators that you don’t want to hide in fear of someone who will sit behind a computer, as an “anonymous,” and perform cowardly acts of cyber terrorism. We, as a University, are better than to let a masked, invisible perpetrator like this bring us to these lengths.
I’ll be the first to admit that the threat of a bomb or shooting happening on a University’s campus is always present. But, I wouldn’t be quick to assume the threat is any higher now than it usually is. I believe – although I understand how controversial it may be – that our most effective action would be one of non-action. Not responding to the threats, not evacuating, not running, not acting like we believe that the person making this threats is ready to act on them.
I know this is a stance the University’s administration can’t take, but it is one that we – the students, faculty and stuff – can take. I wouldn’t encourage causing a divide between students and administration or police, but I do believe we can take certain actions (like e-mailing our dean, talking to our police, having a reasonable discussion between students and administration about what to do, etc.) that can help us act in cohesion, but not act in fear.
If reading this has at all compelled you, I urge you to share your opinion with comments, letters, and conversation. Talk to your fellow Panthers, be reasonable, consider our best interest, but also be brave. Remember that no man ever conquered something by cowering and maneuvering through the fight.