Engineering Nebraska, Summer07
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Bomb Threat Cancels E-Week

cherry bomb

The E-Week Open House came to an abrupt end after a man called in a bomb threat for Othmer Hall on Friday, April 20.

A Dean’s Office staff member received the call at 12:05 p.m. After notifying campus police, she pulled a fire alarm to evacuate the building. The Lincoln Fire Department and campus police officials evacuated Walter Scott Engineering Center and Nebraska Hall about 20 minutes later.

Dean David Allen canceled the rest of the open house activities scheduled for the afternoon including the Engineering Research Fair, which showcases design projects by seniors and graduate students. The bomb squad searched the buildings and determined by 4 p.m. that the threat was a hoax.

In Nebraska, it is a Class IV felony to threaten the use of explosives.

The UNL Police Department has determined the call was made from a convenience store in downtown Omaha, said Officer John Backer. Investigators have surveillance camera photos of the person of interest and have been distributing the photos to faculty, staff and people in downtown Omaha in order to identify the person, he said.

The department is also seeking information from Crime Stoppers, a toll-free hotline that allows people to anonymously report information about a crime.

Engineering classes were already canceled April 20 so students could participate in the open house. University officials didn’t cancel classes for the rest of campus, but sent e-mails to faculty, staff and students throughout the afternoon to keep them informed.

“If you feel uncomfortable being on campus this afternoon, you should feel free to leave the campus. Your safety is our #1 concern,” wrote Christine Jackson, vice chancellor of business and finance.

It was a frightening week for campuses throughout the United States. Just four days before the bomb threat at UNL, a gunman killed 32 people and wounded others at Virginia Tech University. April 20 also was the eighth anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings.

After talking to E-Week co-chairs Aaron Stubbendieck and Emily Guthrie, Allen said he made the difficult decision to not reschedule the open house.

“Our students’ consensus is that rescheduling this event would have interfered with class schedules and studying for finals,” Allen said.

Despite its disappointing ending, the event showed some encouraging trends for 2008. Records were set in open house attendance and student participation in the research fair.

David Williams, assistant director of retention, said he appreciated student leaders’ hard work in planning and carrying out the event.

“E-Week has been a tradition for generations, and with the spirit I saw this year, I expect it to be even bigger next year and for years to come,” Williams said.

—Ashley Washburn,
with material from the Associated Press