Threat made to Valparaiso University campus
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent September 14, 2012 11:00AM
A Valparaiso Police Department squad is parked outside the Harre Union on the campus of Valparaiso University Friday Sept. 14, 2012. Officers and vehicles from Northwest Indiana communities helped to provide on-campus security after the discovery of a graffiti threat earlier in the day. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Valparaiso University is asking that any suspicious activity be reported to the Valparaiso University Police Department at 911 or 464-5430.
Updated: October 16, 2012 6:07AM
VALPARAISO — A graffiti message in a bathroom in a science building on the Valparaiso University campus that put the university on high alert for much of Friday is not connected to bomb threats on two campuses across the country, according to a university official.
The threat at VU, discovered between noon and 1 p.m. Thursday by a faculty member in the Neils Science Center, “is substantially different from the threats received at the other schools nationally,” VU Provost Mark Schwehn said during an afternoon news conference held in the Harre Union.
Bomb threats at the University of Texas in Austin and North Dakota State University in Fargo forced the evacuation of both those campuses Friday.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those institutions for the anxiety they experienced today,” Schwehn said.
There was no bomb involved in the threat at VU, which alleged dangerous and criminal activity during the chapel break on campus, he said. The break takes place from 11:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Police have no suspects.
Schwehn would not release the wording or where in the bathroom the message was posted because of the ongoing investigation. He added there was no particular reason the graffiti was in a science building, and similar graffiti has not been found on campus before.
“The threat has passed without incident and we have cancelled the high alert,” he said, adding officials are asking university students, faculty and staff to remain alert to unusual activity.
The university notified local and national law enforcement officials of the threat Thursday evening, per university protocol, and humans and police dogs did a sweep of all the public buildings on campus after that, “and found nothing,” Schwehn said, adding university officials never considered cancelling classes.
Officials sent an alert to students, faculty and staff about the threat at 6 a.m. Friday via cell phone, email and Twitter, and followed with an update at 9 a.m.
The Valparaiso University Police Department is the lead agency in the investigation, “but we’re in constant contact with the FBI,” Schwehn said. Other departments assisting on campus include the Valparaiso Police Department; the Portage Police Department; the Lake Station Police Department; and the Porter County Sheriff’s Department.
Schwehn noted his own history at the campus, first as a student in the 1960s and later as a faculty member in the 1980s, before he worked his way up to provost.
“I can say firsthand, this is a community that cares deeply about the health and safety of each and every member,” he said.
He said he hasn’t been able to measure students’ reaction to the incident, but “I know the students are greatly relieved” now that the high alert has been cancelled.
Other than an increased police presence on campus Friday, nothing else seemed amiss. Students milled about on campus to their next classes during the chapel break, reporting they felt secure despite the threat.
“They sent out a campus-wide email notifying all the students that there had been a threat. That’s all I know, really,” said junior Chris Stoming, who’s from the Milwaukee area.
“I haven’t noticed anything abnormal, besides a couple police officers walking around today,” Stoming said, adding he feels safe on the campus of the Lutheran university. “Absolutely. A small, private campus like this — it feels safe here. We’re in good hands.”
He added that it seemed as though campus officials were doing what they could to handle the threat.
Freshman Cailie Gralewski knew little about the matter, other than what she’d received in brief emails from the university about the threat. Gralewski, of Chicago, said she feels safe on campus as well.
“I think they do a good job of keeping us safe here. I think if it was super serious, we wouldn’t even have class today,” she said.