SF State's bomb threat response was simply too late

With all that has gone on in the last week in Boston, you’d think that a bomb threat at a large public university would warrant a rapid and robust public response from that university’s administration.

But that was not the case at SF State.

After a suspicious package was reported in the Creative Arts Building Monday morning, the administration was slow to react and students were left looking to outside sources for information.

It’s the final month of the semester and students are itching to finish up their classes and nerves are all over the spectrum. If a lack of sleep and substantial study time were not enough, the last thing students need right now is to be left uninformed about a potential safety threat.

Crowds of people were kept from the Creative Arts Building, police swept the area and students were immediately evacuated from classrooms by men without uniform. Students on campus saw news helicopters, and heard of a bomb threat, but waited anxiously for any confirmation from authority.

The delay would be understandable if the situation was in flux or if informing the public could have hampered some sort of an investigation, but this was not the case.

At 9:19 a.m., this simple message appeared on the SF State Facebook page: “UPD reports bomb threat in Creative Arts bldg. Evacuation underway. Stay away from area.”

That means that the administration was aware of the situation at least a full hour before students began receiving the automated phone calls, text messages and emails that the school sends out during emergencies. For those students who do not have Facebook accounts, these messages were too little, too late.

The late phone calls and emails long after after the dust had settled showed students, if anything, our school is ill-prepared. Notifications came too late for students still arriving to campus, unaware of the cause of commotion.

President Wong sent an email late Monday afternoon to all students and faculty alerting them the threat had been neutralized and thanking law enforcement for their diligent work.

We share in his gratitude to the University Police Department for defusing the situation quickly, but we are disappointed in the administrations apparent reluctance to pass along vital information in any sort of timely manner.

The real irony lies in the fact that the University was quick to act when a water main broke in the very same building earlier this semester. Students’ cell phones were flooded with text messages and voicemails alerting them to their cancelled morning classes.

SF State has a history of reacting late to threats. In April 2012, a fake gun was brought to a BECA class. Rumors quickly spread concerning cancelled classes and a credible threat through word of mouth and social media.

No campus-wide message was sent to students regarding the gun threat by police or administration.

Administration should show this type of quick reaction when swiftly reporting any emergencies to students for their safety, especially in the case of campus threats. In his email Wong encouraged students: “If you see something, say something.”

We simply ask the administration to do the same.

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