Two American university campuses — the University of Texas at Austin and North Dakota State University — are being evacuated at this hour after administrators received early morning bomb threats. It’s not yet known if the threats are related.
UT Austin is the flagship campus of the University of Texas system, with some 50,000 students, 16,000 employees, and a 420-acre campus. It was the site of the 1966 Charles Whitman shootings, then the worst mass murder in American history.
Update, 11:22 am (ET): It has just been reported that the UT Austin evacuation was prompted by a telephoned bomb threat from a man with a “Middle Eastern accent” who claimed that he was connected to Al Qaeda and had planted multiple bombs throughout campus. The call came in at 8:35 am local time and claimed that the bombs were set to detonate in 90 minutes, which would have been approximately 15 minutes ago.
11:25 am: UT Austin says campus is being checked for bombs, no decision yet made on afternoon classes. Next update scheduled for 10:45 am local time, 20 minutes from now.
11:35 am: NDSU evacuation order appears to have been posted at 9:49 am local time, at almost exactly the same time as the UT Austin evacuation order. It’s always important to be careful in drawing conclusions based on early reports in such situations, but it seems — right now — somewhat unlikely that either threat was a copycat, or that the two were coincidental.
11:50 am: UT Austin still clearing buildings, latest update confirms that time specified in threat has passed. No bombs found so far, no decision made on when campus will re-open.
11:40 am: The NDSU incident is the third major bomb threat this week in eastern North Dakota, following threats at two nearby airports on September 11 and 12.
11:55 am: There’s a rumor going around that these threats might be in some way related to last season’s college football championship, in which North Dakota State beat (it’s said) UT for the national title. But they didn’t — they beat Sam Houston State, a college located some 150 miles away from UT Austin.
12:07 pm: Just tweeted: “An hour and 15 minutes after original NDSU warning, no updates. @UTAustin has updated twice on Twitter and given addl info to press.”
12:25 pm: An alert posted on the website of Valparaiso University in Indiana says there’s been a non-specific threat made there this morning via graffiti:
An unspecific threat to campus was made through a graffiti message alluding to dangerous and criminal activity alleged to be carried out during the chapel break period on Friday. The broad threat provided no details with respect to location or type.
No evacuation at Valparaiso at this time.
12:45 pm: All activities at UT Austin except for classes will resume at 5 pm today, according to a tweet from the university’s vice president for student affairs. Classes are cancelled for the day.
1:00 pm: First update from NDSU, posted about 15 minutes ago, says campus is still closed and that administrators expect to have another report “within the hour.”
1:15 pm: UT press conference going on now. Campus has reopened, administrators seem confident there was never a legitimate threat. UT Austin doesn’t kid around with campus crises, by the way — their warning went out via text, Facebook, Twitter, siren, website, media, and campus CCTV.
1:35 pm: NDSU has reopened, classes will resume at 2 pm local time. Between this and the hints dropped at the UT Austin press conference, I strongly suspect that the same person (or people) was behind the two threats, and that law enforcement knows a lot about who it was.