CAMPUS: Threat closes buildings


Hundreds of students, faculty and staff were evacuate the Oakland Center and O’Dowd Hall after a bomb threat was made targeting the two buildings. Just over two hours later, the buildings were reopened.

According to the Oakland University Police Department, the threat was phoned in to an undisclosed building on campus at 12:46 p.m. At 1:02 p.m., OUPD alerted students and faculty with a text message and voice message with a notification of a vague bomb threat.

Officials on the scene said the buildings were expected to be closed for several hours but they reopened within 90 minutes, at around 3 p.m.

OUPD Chief Sam Lucido said the threat was specific enough to confine the search to only the two buildings as opposed to shutting down the entire campus, as they did in April 2008 in response to threatening graffiti messages.

“There is really no comparison between that case and this one at all,” Lucido said. “In April, there were threats in three different buildings. We decided the threat here didn’t rise to that level.”

OU spokespoerson Ted Montgomery said that the university is sometimes weary of shutting the school down, fearing that some students might make a threat for no purpose other than getting the school to close.


“We don’t want someone partying all night, sleeping in on their final and phoning in a bomb threat to get the school shut down,” Montgomery said. “Other operations are going on on campus as scheduled.”

OUPD worked with a number of outside law enforcement agencies, including the sheriffs’ departments of Oakland County and Macomb County. OUPD also enlisted the services of bomb detecting dogs from Sterling Heights Canine Unit to survey the threatened areas.

Around 2 p.m., two police dogs entered the OC to sniff for bombs and at around 2:10 p.m., three dogs were taken into O’Dowd. The two buildings were reopened by 2:55 p.m. after canine units searched the grounds and left.

Lucido said the procedure adhered to protocol and commended his staff for a smooth and expeditious performance.

“We called for a very thorough search of the premises, and our officers did a very professional job,” Lucido said. “Of course, we couldn’t have done this without assistance from outside agencies. They were a big help.”

While the OC and O’Dowd were locked down, many classes went on as scheduled in North and South Foundation halls, the buildings connecting to the OC.  However, some professors in SFH evacuated classes, most likely because of the text message alert system.

Sociology professor Terri Orbuch had just started her 1 p.m. interpersonal relations class when several of her students received the text message alert.

While she decided to proceed with class, Orbuch said the mood was quite tense, making it difficult for students to focus on the subject matter.

“I’m going to probably have to go over all the class material again,” Orbuch said. “It was very difficult to stay on track, to not have everybody look outside, for me not to ask ‘Did anyone get a new alert?’ The whole event was just very distracting. Everybody was on edge.”

For philosophy major Stacey Watrobski, the classroom atmosphere was considerably lighter. She said she thought it might have had something to do with the subject matter of her class.

“We talked a little bit about if we were going to die that we shouldn’t be afraid because we’re philosophers,” Watrabski said. “The mood didn’t really change at all. We just kind of went about our business.”

Richard Fekel, the building manager of the OC, said he found out about the threat at the same time as the rest of the people in the OC when the fire alarm was activated.

While everyone else evacuated the building, Fekel and his staff stayed inside to understand the situation. Fekel said he and his staff did not feel any more at risk being inside the building while the police was examining the OC.

“I think it might depend upon the circumstances at hand, but this time I certainly don’t think anybody felt uncomfortable,” Fekel said. “The whole process was very smooth and very orderly as well.”

Brian Sweet, manager of the bookstore in the OC, had to stay inside to let the police in to survey the store. Sweet said there was not an exceptionally high level of anxiety among his employees, and that he was impressed with the expediency with which the police conducted their duties.

“It’s really difficult to evacuate a building as crowded as this one especially during lunchtime with all the people coming in and out, but I think they did a fantastic job,” Sweet said. “It didn’t seem to be a grave situation, but they seemed to be taking it very seriously.”

Sweet said all bookstore employees will be paid for the time they were restricted out of the building.

For more photo and video coverage of the bomb threat scare, you can visit You can also check out live minute-by-minute status updates of the event at

— Sean Garner, Lindsey Wojcik, Colleen Miller, Tim Rath, Jared Purcell, Thomas Rowland, Kay Nguyen, Brad Slazinski and  Steve St. Germain contributed to this report.