Tufts Bomb Scare Threatens Campus, Finals (part 1)

Sunday, May 8th: the final day of cramming before Tufts' finals week, the week of reckoning. I had one Hebrew final scheduled for Monday afternoon, and two papers due Thursday--hardly a heavy workload. The stressed out vibe circulating campus had gotten to me, and I, too was studying well into the night. By 2:00 am I knew I was out of gas, and I crawled into bed to begin my wait for for morning.

Six hours later, the campus was buzzing with activity. But there wasn't a student in sight.

Early that morning, an unidentified individual had torched a car parked next the campus Health Services building. Authorities responded to the blaze and quickly put out the wreck. Then, they found a note taped to a nearby door. It was a bomb threat; multiple campus centers, including Tisch Library, were reportedly targeted. This was going to be no ordinary Monday.

By the time I woke up at 8:00 am, news of the bomb threat was still making the rounds. The university had sent a campus-wide email at 6:44 notifying all students of the car fire and bomb threat, but gave no clue on how, and if, the events would impact finals Monday. My roommate trudged off to take his 8:30 final. He was back in the room by quarter to nine. His exam, he told me, had been canceled. I wondered if mine was next.

The next eight hours can be best understood as experienced though two vastly different perspectives: that of the students, and that of the authorities. At leas for me, the bomb threat was notable not because of its potentially deadly implications, but because it threw my exams into question. No doubt the authorities saw it the other way around.

As I scoured social media for clues about what was going on, I began to understand just how confused the entire campus must be. Everyone had woken up to a campus frozen in place, but pressing to break free. There were finals to fail, GPA's to save, professors to sweet talk. This was the defining day of the semester; it could not afford interruption from some phony bomb threat.

My perspective was echoed on Yik Yak, the perennial campus well of gossip and dad jokes. Students were having a field day with the news. Every minute a new volley of commentary, bomb-related puns, and sarcasm hit the app. "I've left my mixtape under every desk in Cabot," (one of the threatened halls) one student wrote. The post had over three hundred up-votes.

It is likely that a few students felt genuine fear that overshadowed their concerns of rescheduled finals. I can't blame them. This was no ordinary bomb threat; the suspect had torched a car, after all. But for what seemed like the vast majority of the student body, the the most important news of the day was the status of their finals. Here, the university was woefully unresponsive.

I had little doubt my noon final would be postponed, but I was not willing to bet my semester's grade on a hunch. Around 9:00 am, I called Student Services to find out the status of my exam. They told me an "executive team" was meeting at that very moment to discuss the rest of the day, and I would hear their verdict soon. I waited, but no news came.

The next round of finals was scheduled to begin at 10:30, but the student consensus was that they were unlikely to happen. Nonessential staff had been sent home, and students had been asked to hunker down in their rooms. At 10:12, am new campus-wide email made the news official. "All morning activities, including final exams, are postponed," it read. "Pending reopening of the affected buildings, a decision will be made regarding afternoon activities and final exams as soon as possible."

My final still of dubious status, I sat in my room and waited. There was no way it could happen, it was impossible. At 12, I received a new email: "All noon exams are postponed while law enforcement continues to clear affected buildings on the Medford/Somerville campus."

This is the first article of a multi-part series chronicling Tufts' bomb threat on the morning of Monday, May 9. Stay tuned in the coming days for the next installment.