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University: Bomb threat on UL campus elicits annoyance, confusion

Katie de la Rosa, The Advertiser, July 16, 2014

An Acadia Parish Sherriff’s Department officer guides a police dog on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Lafayette, LA, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. Police received reports of suspicious packages near Girard Park and the university campus in Lafayette on Wednesday morning.(Photo: Paul Kieu, The Advertiser)


Before deeper details emerged about the bomb threat called into the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus Wednesday, some students and professors reacted calmly, seeming more perturbed that their schedules had been shaken up by what they thought was likely a prank.

"They didn’t tell us much, just that it was a bomb threat," said Nicholas Zerangue, an incoming freshman from Slidell who was attending orientation and staying in one of the dorm halls that was evacuated. "Everyone was fine, calm, maybe a little annoyed. No one takes bomb threats at school seriously."

Emily Sandoz, interim psychology department head and a clinician, said even though her initial response was to care for her students, she figured the threat was nothing more than a prank.

"It seemed like someone was probably trying to get out of a test," Sandoz said.

Authorities determined around 2 p.m. that a device found in Girard Park was not an explosive but made to resemble one. No other devices were found, and students and faculty were allowed to return around 3.

Before that, though, the scare seemed less like a joke.

VIDEO: "I was fearing for people’s lives"

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Around noon, The Daily Advertiser learned the bomb scare was called into local news station KATC around 5:30 a.m. by an unidentified male was "spewing expletives."

"He called the main newsroom line and told our producer he had placed multiple devices around the park and UL," KATC General Manager Andrew Shenkan said. "He was using expletives and made other defamatory statements, so our producer immediately reached out to law enforcement."

At least 100 students were on campus at the time of the evacuation around 7 a.m. They were moved to the Lafayette Consolidated Government building, where music media senior Brian Robinson told The Daily Advertiser about the chaotic morning that involved being rushed into buses to vacate campus.

"I was kind of fearing for people’s lives and whatnot," Robinson said. "Basically, it was one for the ages."

Sandoz said seeing the campus empty "when it should have been bustling" was eerie, and then once she started to learn more details, she said she viewed the situation with "compassion."

"How do we differentiate between someone calling while intoxicated or struggling with serious mental issues?" she asked. "People with psychological issues are not more likely to be more dangerous or violent than those without them, but dangerous and violent people almost always have psychological issues.

"There becomes a point when we have to wonder if we have adequate support or resources to help these people who could do something like this," Sandoz continued. "Students aren’t immune to internal issues."

Individual counseling and crisis intervention are only two of the services offered on campus at the Counseling and Testing Center. They are free of charge to currently registered students, faculty and staff, according to the university website.

The University Police Department’s campaign, See Something Say Something, encourages police-student cooperation to help prevent and quell crime on campus. Using its mobile command center RV on Wednesday, UL police led all involved federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in the campus sweep searching for the reported bombs.

Ryan Teten, a political science professor and the director of the Future Leaders Internship Program, said his initial reaction was "mixed" with shock and doubt, but professors are faced with potential danger every day.

"In an open college environment, we are vulnerable to disgruntled students with firearms, like at Virginia Tech, as well as anyone inside or outside of the college community who seeks to take advantage of the freedom of movement on and off campus," he said.

Although the scare disrupted syllabi and class schedules, Teten said the safety of students is "paramount" for most professors and they will willingly accommodate to unexpected interruptions.

"It’s always better to be safe than sorry," Teten said, "and we would be more than happy to cancel classes if it means greater safety for us, our students and the community."