Building security tightened at Pitt

New measures target backpacks, dorm visits to buck threats

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University of Pittsburgh students and faculty members will now have to present their IDs to enter campus buildings that receive bomb threats as part of an effort to improve "safety and the feeling of safety," a school spokesman said Sunday night.

Robert Hill, a spokesman for Pitt, said the university has entered "crisis mode" following a string of 21 bomb threats that began on Feb. 13. Some of the threats prompted evacuations at multiple buildings.

Provost Patricia Beeson and executive vice chancellor Jerry Cochran told students via email Sunday that "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."

The announcement came hours after the university received a threat to the Hillman Library, Sennott Square and Benedum Hall. The frequency of the threats, which have been occurring daily for about a week, has scared some parents and students, some of whom have chosen to live off campus with friends or to return home for the three weeks remaining in the semester.

Ms. Beeson and Mr. Cochran told students they hoped the new security measures would "reduce the amount of time needed to clear and reopen buildings" after threats are received.

After a building has been swept and cleared, people will be allowed to enter through two doors, which the pair warned will increase the amount of time it takes to get to class.

One entrance will be for people who want to take bags inside, and it will run much like security does for athletic events at the Petersen Events Center. The other line, expected to move more quickly, will be for people who don't have bags.

They also announced that only dormitory residents will be allowed inside residence halls.

Mr. Hill said university officials might tweak their security measures as they learn how they how they are working.

Some students who remained on campus Sunday night said they thought the new security measures would be inconvenient, but they appreciated the university's attempts to visibly bolster security.

"Finally, they're putting measures that we can see, and we're going to have to accommodate," said Olga Goncharenko, a 23-year-old senior who said she's debating skipping her graduation ceremony if the bomb threats persist. "I've been here five years, and I've never felt unsafe. It's just such a shame that I'm leaving with such tarnished memories."

Carolyn Impagliazzo, a 19-year-old freshman, said she appreciates the new measures but might continue to stay with friends off campus.

She won't back down, she said, on attending classes when possible. She said, "I don't want him to win -- or her, whoever it is."

education - neigh_city

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published April 9, 2012 12:00 PM


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