UT response to bomb threat questioned

Sept. 15, 2012 at 9:28 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- It took University of Texas officials 78 minutes to issue an order to vacate buildings on the Austin campus after a bomb threat was received, officials say.

Friday's threat in Austin, and another at North Dakota State University, turned out to be hoaxes.

But the length of time it took officials at the Texas school to order an evacuation left some people wondering.

"I can understand why they're taking precautions, but I don't think it's that great to notify us this late, apparently a few minutes before the bombs go off," Junho Ahn, a 20-year-old senior from Denton, said at a briefing school officials held after the all-clear was given.

School officials responded by saying they had doubts about the credibility of the caller's claim to have placed bombs throughout the campus of about 75,000 students and staff.

When they did issue the evacuation order, there was no mention of bombs and that, too, drew criticism.

UT Police Chief Robert Dahlstrom told the Austin American-Statesman.

"If you say 'bomb,' people might panic," Dahlstrom said. "But maybe our message has to be stronger."

Another criticism that arose was the school's statement that the caller, who claimed to be with al-Qaida, had a Middle Eastern accent.

"This might make things worse for anyone that identifies as Middle Eastern, South Asian or anyone that identifies as Muslim," said radio-television-film sophomore Alifya Ali, who is Muslim and South Asian. "It might have an adverse effect on students on campus."

The FBI is leading the investigation into the bogus threat.

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