Campus closes after threat made

Officials announced the university would close today, Oct. 9, at their executive council meeting Oct. 6. The decision was made in response to a threat written in the second-floor men’s bathroom of Collier Library Sept. 26.

The threat included four people will die Oct. 9.

A second writing, found in the on-campus parking deck elevator, included R.I.P. Mike Brown and the date Oct. 9, authorities said.

“Our focus is ensuring the safety of everyone on campus,” said Interim University President John Thornell. “Having a two-day fall break hardly causes us to compromise our academic standards.”

The problem administrators face is canceling classes does not solve the problem because some students remain on campus, Thornell said.

Only essential staff members will attend work today, as the residence halls remain open for students who chose to stay for the long fall break weekend.

“Canceling classes limits the number of possible targets,” said UNA Police Chief Bob Pastula. “We would cut the number by probably 80 percent.”

To combat the threat, increased security has been implemented, said Vice President for Student Affairs David Shields.

“We had extra officers put on immediately, we had extra precautions taken in the residence halls, we had extra folks being vigilant throughout the weekend, and extra patrols were done at off-campus apartment sites,” Shields said. “(We did) everything we could think of to provide extra security to react to this in an appropriate way.”

Pastula said armed police officers guard campus today, as he has contacted other forces to help with security.

Police identified two suspects in the case, although they have not been able to link them to the crime scene.

Two pieces of evidence are key in the investigation — fingerprints and the handwriting on the walls, Pastula said.

“We took fingerprints, but we didn’t get anything back identifying anyone yet,” he said. “We can’t match the handwriting. We can’t tie any suspects to the threats themselves.”

Faculty Senate President Elect Sarah Franklin, an associate professor of history, said she had already moved an exam in one of her classes before the decision was made to close the university.

“Faculty are concerned, (and) students are concerned,” Franklin said. “I think regardless of a decision that is made with respect to classes on Thursday, very little instruction is going to take place on this campus.”

Concerns were expressed among the top leadership that closing the university would set a precedent for threats of this nature.

Athletic Director Mark Linder said he hopes the close does not send a message to the person who made the threat that this behavior is acceptable.

Pastula said the university is treating this as a terrorist threat and the person will be charged accordingly.

Anyone with information regarding the threat is asked to contact the University Police Department at 256-765-4357 or in the basement of Keller Hall.