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Pitt adds security; bomb threats resume Saturday evening

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

University of Pittsburgh administrators sought to reassure students of their safety on Saturday, yet bomb threats continued to rattle the Oakland campus.

New threats targeted nine university buildings yesterday evening, hours after a top Pitt official said the school was increasing its police and security presence.

Authorities ordered evacuations of the Music Building and the Frick Fine Arts Building shortly before 7 p.m.. By 8:25 p.m., officials announced an all-clear and said that the buildings would reopen on Monday morning.

Then, about a half-hour later, the university ordered an evacuation of Litchfield Towers, which consists of three buildings, as well as Holland Hall, Sutherland Hall, Forbes Hall and the Cathedral of Learning.

This followed an uneasy Friday in which the cathedral and four residence halls were targeted. Also on Friday, U.S. Attorney David Hickton said the region's Joint Terrorism Task Force, made up of local, state and federal agencies, is investigating the threats.

Since Feb. 13, bomb threats -- some sent by email, others scrawled in bathrooms -- have targeted 40 buildings on campus. No explosive devices were found in searches of the first 33 buildings; authorities last night still were searching the seven buildings named in the latest threat.

"After a while, it's like the boy who cried wolf," Daniel Dorazio, 23, a senior biology major from Canonsburg, Washington County, said yesterday.

Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kathy Humphrey issued a statement to students yesterday morning that the university is beefing up its campus police and security presence. Faculty is working to ensure that students can make up any missed classes, Humphrey said, including holding classes outdoors.

Many buildings, like the cathedral, have been threatened several times. Bomb threats have come in during the night, emptying dormitories and sending some students to live off-campus.

"It could happen anywhere anytime, and unfortunately it happened at Pitt," said senior Stephen Paolini, 21, of Wyomissing in Berks County. "But you can't walk around in fear all the time."

Though many students had gone home because of the Easter holiday, many remained. Some students frolicked on the lawn of the cathedral yesterday afternoon, while others squinted in frustration inside, studying intensely as finals week approaches.

The campus is offering counseling through its University Counseling Center, Humphrey said. University officials were unable to say yesterday how many students have sought counseling since the bomb threats started.

On Friday, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said classes would continue through the remainder of the semester. Finals begin April 23.

Humphrey stated that faculty members have been creative in trying to continue classes disrupted by the threats, even holding them outdoors.

"In situations where this isn't possible, faculty members are dedicated to making alternate accommodations for you so you can complete the coursework you miss. Approaches faculty might take include makeup sessions in alternative locations and the use of Web technologies for remote instruction," Humphrey said.

The university set up a Web site to provide updates. In a letter from Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia E. Beeson, the university said April 14 and 21 are designated as class make-up days.

Pitt is offering a $50,000 reward. Anyone with information about the threats is asked to call the FBI at (412) 432-4000.




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