Disarming the threats

With shooting threats canceling classes, the University should find ways to eliminate their utility.

Well, here we go again. With officials bound to precaution, another threat of violence at the University of Minnesota left classes canceled and buildings evacuated. The Carlson School, Hanson Hall and the Humphrey Center all canceled activities after mid-afternoon yesterday because of a shooting threat, slashing todayâÄôs evening lectures along with myriad late April quizzes, tests and due dates the threat threw into limbo. Some professors canceled classes before 3:45, others moved outside, and most were confused as to where or when to go or not. Two years ago, while images of the Virginia Tech tragedy were still ripe in peoplesâÄô minds, a bomb threat cleared East Bank classrooms before it was found to be a hoax. Over the last four semesters there have been four separate gun or bomb threats leading to canceled classes. Each time it happens, we canâÄôt help but wonder if University operations are being halted by some desperate, exam-doomed hooligan, especially as three of the last four threats have come during heavy weeks for student coursework. Of course, to halt bogus threats completely the University has to ignore them and place thousands of students in a potentially fatal situation: a non-option. Unfortunately, if the flunkie hooligan is to blame, his or her behavior wonâÄôt likely improve because threats of violence phoned in or left on a note get the job done. They also seem to be getting more popular. At an institution this large, when a single threat means hundreds, even thousands of students missing class, or worse: in legitimate danger, we need to develop a plan to manage class displacement. If the University could guarantee no class would be canceled, only relocated, the motive for placing an insincere shooting threat would be nullified. Obviously, threats targeting afternoon class on East Bank and Northrop Mall would require special planning. Most threats wouldnâÄôt be as tough to plan around, but the University has to show it can manage them in stride. “We do have a very sophisticated system for classroom management,” University spokesman Daniel Wolter said. YesterdayâÄôs threat cancelled 65 course sections and class for 2,047 students. Many of classes withheld were night classes, some of which the studentâÄôs only lesson for the entire week. These classes should have been rerouted, notices placed on the UniversityâÄôs website, and confusion quelled with a contingency plan that ensures no student will lose expensive classroom hours, or their chance to shine on that terrifying midterm exam. Put the UniversityâÄôs classroom management system to work to disarm and prevent threats like these, or they may get more popular.