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Bradley students, faculty feel left in the dark by university’s communication during bomb threat

Chalk written by Bradley students pushing for change on campus. Phot via Madalyn Mirallegro.

From 7:40 p.m. to 9:55 p.m. on Tuesday evening, Bradley students locked themselves in their dorm rooms, apartments, off-campus houses and education buildings due to a bomb threat that was issued on campus.

When the lockdown was first announced, alarm systems informed those on campus to lockdown with an intruder alert which instructed everyone to shelter in place. The BU foreWarn system sent messages that read “Lock down immediately. Wait for further instructions.”

This same message was sent two more times during the two hour period with no further announcements, until two all clear messages. According to Bradley University Chief of Police Brian Joschko, the messages were sent with the intention to keep students sheltered in place away from the bomb threat.

“We wanted to ensure that students stayed where they were because we knew that where they were was where they were safe,” Joschko said. “We didn’t want them [students] moving about so the messaging was very intentional.”

However, several Bradley students and faculty members do not believe that the messages provided them with sufficient insight on what was taking place while the lockdown stretched on.

Lecturer in Residence and Bradley alumna Jessica Tilton had a similar experience during her time at Bradley. During the fall semester of her senior year, a non-credible threatening handwritten note was placed in Olin Hall, and Bradley sent out an alert and called for police to be stationed near the building and patrol the campus.

For the lockdown on Tuesday night, Tilton was the one of the only faculty member’s in Olin Hall and had just left her lab when the alert rang out. She gathered the students that she passed and together they hid in the back of her lab room to wait it out.

“I got all of [the students], I turned off all the lights and told them to go to the back room and we just all sat down,” Tilton said. “And the first thought that went through my mind was that there was an active shooter.”

Tilton recounted that she and the students felt like sitting ducks waiting to find out more information regarding the situation. It wasn’t until after the all clear was given that she discovered the true cause of the alert.

“If they [the university] would have clarified and said bomb threat, I know that a bomb is not going to run at me in the room,” Tilton said. “It’s going to be isolated. It’s already set up on campus or if someone has a bomb strapped to them, which is what the call was, they aren’t running rampant through campus.”

Tilton found out the cause for the initial call by reaching out to dispatch after the lockdown for more information than what was provided via emails and articles.

Another discovery made since the lockdown was lifted is that the alert system through the intercoms in the Cullom-Davis Library and Lovelace Hall did not go off.

Freshman accounting major Jamir Gordon also shared his experience during the lockdown. In an email to Tilton sent by one of his friends, he explains that he was in Constance Hall during the time – a building with no locks.

“Students were running up and down the halls trying to find a room with a lock in the midst of alarms going off,” the email stated. “It took five of them to push the piano up against the door. This was the only security they had for two hours.”

Those who were in the Business and Engineering Convergence Center (BECC), where the threat was targeted, were escorted out by the SWAT team that was called to the scene.

“It was really scary. [The SWAT team] opened the door of the storage closet we were in, saw it was barricaded, kicked it open, and pointed their assault rifle at us because they didn’t know who we were,” sophomore advertising and public relations major Kailyn Joyce said. “They were everywhere on our way out. It felt like a movie and I could barely believe it was real. They were all very calm though and kept reassuring us to be calm and that we were safe.”

Tilton also recounted finding footsteps on the toilets in the girls bathroom in Olin Hall after the lockdown. After this event, Tilton wants the university to increase their communication with students about potential threats on campus.

“At the hour mark, they should have clarified [and said] ‘stay put, it’s a bomb threat,’” Tilton said. “If you go to that, we’re still terrified at that point, but some information was better than just hearing everything on the news and all the speculation that there’s a shooter, there’s someone at Heitz, that’s just invoking fear in the whole campus and that doesn’t need to happen.”

On Wednesday, students pushed for change on campus, from sending emails to writing a message in chalk in front of the Circle of Pride on Alumni Quad. The message stated, “Two hours, alone, afraid, not sure if I’ll die. It’s two hours too many. Do better Bradley.”

In a press release on the morning of April 26, Bradley University’s President Stephen Standifird commented on the safety of the university and the response to the threat. Standifird stated that he is confident in the safety of the campus and is reviewing Bradley’s emergency measures and communication plan.

We will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure that our campus remains a safe and secure environment for learning, research, and community, including a review of our campus emergency and communication plan,” the press release said.

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