Pitt campus calm, cautiously relieved
A student walks between the Barco Law Building and the David Lawrence Hall along Forbes Avenue on the University of Pittsburgh campus.
Rachael Quesenberry, a freshman from Gettysburg, Adams County, pulls a cart for a friend Monday near Litchfield Towers on Pitt's campus in Oakland. Monday marked the first day of finals for a university that has been plagued by bomb threats for a majority of the semester.
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It might be what the University of Pittsburgh has been so desperately hoping for: an end to the bomb threats that have plagued the school for more than a month.
But when disruption has become the new routine, it's difficult for students to know just how to react after nearly three days without a bomb threat.
"I'm not convinced," said Alexander Ciliberto, a 22-year-old senior. "I'm hesitant to put it out of my mind completely."
Over the weekend, a group calling itself The Threateners assumed responsibility for the emailed threats and reiterated an earlier demand that Pitt withdraw the $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people making the threats. After Pitt did so, The Threateners said it was ending the threats, the last of which was made Saturday morning.
Eating lunch Monday in the Cathedral of Learning, junior Hannah Smith said she wasn't sure whether to resume her pre-bomb threat life or to continue with the coping strategies she'd adopted in recent weeks.
She'd gotten in the habit of sleeping with friends off campus when she had a test the next day, for example, rather than be roused from her Bruce Hall dorm room in the middle of the night.
Mr. Ciliberto and his friend, Leah Munsky, have adjusted as well. They've seen the demise of their longtime Classics study group in the Cathedral of Learning, as people chose to study in places less likely to be evacuated. As seniors, they're just hoping that the lack of bomb threats continues during their graduation ceremony.
Pitt has received more than 130 bomb threats since Feb. 13. Early threats were written on bathroom walls, while most of the later threats came through anonymous email, often to Post-Gazette reporters.
In an open letter from The Threateners sent Friday to The Pitt News, the group said its bomb threats were made because it saw the $50,000 reward as an objectionable bounty. "That REALLY angered us! Hey, man! This is America! We don't treat our kids like that!" the letter read.
A spokesman for the FBI referred questions on Monday to Pitt.
University spokesman Robert Hill, however, offered no update on the investigation.
In a two-sentence emailed response Monday evening, Mr. Hill did not address several questions he was asked: the number and nature of communications Pitt has had with The Threateners; how long a period without a bomb threat would Pitt need to conclude the campus threat has passed; how much money have the threats cost the university to date; and when does the university expect to reopen its public buildings and end a policy adopted this month of requiring a Pitt ID for entry.
Mr. Hill also was asked how Pitt accomplished notifying and relocating exams into just five buildings on short notice.
"Course instructors have/had the responsibility for communicating with their students concerning details about finals, in a manner consistent with the provost's letter," Mr. Hill said, apparently referring to Provost Patricia Beeson's Sunday announcement of the exam shift that suggested students consult my.pitt.edu for a revised list of exam rooms and buildings.
"The University has no additional comment concerning bomb threats at this time," he wrote.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton declined to comment but referred to an April 11 statement in which Mr. Hickton said investigators had made significant progress and were focusing on potential suspects in the series of threats.
Ms. Smith, of Brookline, and her lunch partner, Nina Rudolph, were puzzled by the threats coming to an end by something as seemingly random as the reward money.
"I don't know why the reward is that big of a deal," said Ms. Rudolph, a bioengineering major from South Park. "It doesn't make any sense."
After other brief lulls and apparent developments in recent weeks, students weren't ready to let their guard down.
"It feels good, but I do feel a little on edge," said Jasmine Lichtman, a freshman who had been evacuated from her Tower B dorm six times, four of those in the middle of the night. "You just don't know."
And if this is the end of the threats, it wasn't a particularly satisfying one, she said.
"It makes you wonder what they were trying to get at," she said. "A lot of people just want to know who it is."
After being evacuated from her dorm at 2:30 a.m., Amber McCartney, a freshman from Allentown, is happy the threats appear to have ended.
"I don't really know what to think," she said. "I'm just really glad for sleep."
First Published April 24, 2012 4:01 pm