Two bomb threats two months apart tighten security

By Steph Mostaccio

This year for Rider, Sept. 11 was significant for two reasons: It was a day to honor those who perished in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and a day to protect the University from a bomb scare.

An unknown source sent Rider, along with many other colleges and universities throughout the country, a bomb threat on Monday, Sept. 10.

Sent through e-mail, the threat warned schools of an explosion planned for the following day.

According to a statement sent out by President Mordechai Rozanski to the Rider community on Sept. 10, more than 60 universities received similar threats in recent weeks.

However, a bomb threat received in July — a message written on a wall in Memorial Hall — was targeted specifically toward Rider, according to Lt. Charles Edgar of the Lawrence Township Police Department (LTPD).

Investigators are still trying to identify the source of the e-mail.

“It clearly involves the Internet and IP addresses,” said Edgar. “It takes a little while to trace down where an e-mail like that came from.”
According to Dean of Students Anthony Campbell, investigators suspect that the message came from Europe.

The reasoning behind the e-mail threat is also not yet known. However, Campbell said he believes that the significance of Sept. 11 had something to do with it.

“For the rest of our lives, the date of Sept. 11 will generate feelings of sadness and anger in all Americans,” he said. “I can only assume that anyone who would indulge in such a hoax and send a threat of this kind may just be heinous enough to use the significance.
of that day to attempt to frighten us.”

Edgar noted that although the threat targeted many institutions across the country, it caught everyone’s attention at Rider because of the summer bomb scare.

Campbell said that, in response to this threat, University officials closed the Lawrenceville campus on July 20. They asked that any students who lived near Rider return home for the weekend on the evening of July 19. The University provided the approximately 70 students who were unable to return home with off-campus housing. The campus was reopened on July 21 after the LTPD assured that it was safe.

According to Campbell, Rider did not implement any evacuations this past week because the FBI and Lawrence Police authorities determined that the threat had low credibility since it was not specifically focused on Rider, the source was questionable and similar threats were sent to a number of other universities across the nation.

Edgar stressed that if any of the law enforcement officers felt last week’s warning was a bona fide threat, they would have done whatever was necessary to protect the Rider community.

“If we felt stronger about the threat, we would have taken every action possible to vacate the campus, isolate an area — whatever had to be done,” he said.

However, Rider did increase security on both campuses as a safety precaution. The main entrance on the Lawrenceville campus was closed and all traffic directed to the South Entrance between 8 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 10 and 6 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

“Having the main gate closed restricts vehicular access to the school and makes it so there is only one entrance where we can get a handle on screening people coming in via car,” Edgar said.

Lawrence Township and Princeton Borough Police officers also joined the Department of Public Safety in increased patrols and enhanced security measures on both campuses from Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. to Sept. 12 at 6 a.m.

The University used its new emergency notification system — Connect-ED, which it has tagged “Rider Alert” — to inform those inside and outside the campus community about the threat and the planned security measures. This new system allows school officials to simultaneously send alerts to students, faculty and staff, as well as to another emergency contact through landlines, cell phones, text messages and e-mails.

Subscribers can cite up to six contacts, including two phone numbers, a text message number and an e-mail address for themselves, and a phone number and e-mail address for another contact, such as a parent or spouse.

According to Carol Kondrach, associate vice president of Information Technologies, Rider Alert is an essential component to the multi-pronged approach to emergency notification already in place, which includes on-campus e-mail, the University Web site, posting signs on doors and bullhorns.

“We can’t predict what the next emergency will be,” said Kondrach. “So we just want to have all the tools — low-tech, high-tech — so we are as prepared as we can be.”

Rider Alert performed well during last week’s bomb scare, according to Kondrach. She said the system was reliable, with 98.1 percent of all landline and cell phone calls, e-mails and text messages delivered to subscribers on Sept. 11. She noted that it was not 100 percent because some subscribers either entered non-working numbers and bad e-mail addresses, or had text messaging turned off.

Students were pleased with Rider Alert. Junior Liz Boffa especially liked the system’s immediacy.

“I thought it worked really well,” she said. “I was impressed.”

Freshman Alexandra Ferrara, who received an e-mail, cell phone message and a call home, said these notifications made her feel safer.

“It’s good that they had high security,” she said. “It was appropriate.”

Kondrach encourages the entire campus community to subscribe to Rider Alert.

“In my opinion, everyone should take advantage so they are up-to-date and know what’s going on, particularly in an emergency,” she said.

Students, faculty and staff can register for the new notification system at http://www.rider.edu/rideralert.

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