A Tufts bomb threat from a suspicious note and a staffer’s burning car on the University’s campus forced officials to cancel classes, postpone final exams and ask students to stay in their dorms as police investigate before clearing the scene, according to school officials.
“All buildings affected by this morning’s events on the Medford/Somerville campus have been cleared by law enforcement, and the campus is returning to limited operations for the remainder of the day,” Tufts said in a statement. The Tufts bomb threat began with when a car became engulfed in a fire in the rear of Professors Row, The Boston Globe reports.
“This morning Police and Fire responded to a car fire in the rear 124 Professors Row and discovered a suspicious note stating that there are bombs present in Cabot Hall, Braker Hall, Cohen Auditorium, and Tisch,” Tufts said in a statement shortly after 6:30 a.m. “The fire was extinguished and police are on scene investigating the bomb threats.”
Mary Gorman told the Herald the destroyed car, a 2011 Toyota Camry hybrid, was apparently set on fire after she and her wife Michelle Bowdler, a health services provider for Tufts, left it parked behind Bowdler’s office for the weekend.
“It’s usually fine,” said Gorman. Professors Row was blocked to traffic and the health building has been blocked off.
During a press conference on campus today, Mary Jeka, senior vice president and general counsel for university relations, said the university got a veiled warning about a “disruption” and turned over the Tufts bomb threat to police yesterday, The Washington Post reported.
“We did have some report of some disruption. … But it certainly didn’t reference this level of dangerous activity. It just referenced to a disruption that was going to take place today. … It was a confidential source where that information came in. … The police were advised to that.” Jeka said a threatening note found on the door of the student health center made reference to janitors working on campus.
“The note did make some references to janitors on campus,” Jeka said. “Law enforcement is investigating to see if it is members of student groups or any outside organization. … It is not clear if that is the cause.” Jeka said a year ago the university reorganized its janitorial force in response to recommendations by the company that manages janitors. The janitors’ union and their student supporters had protested on behalf of union members.
Groups associated with the labor movement at Tufts University released statements this morning condemning the car fire and bomb threats.
“32BJ SEIU District 615 strongly condemns the violent actions at Tufts University this morning in which a car was set on fire and a bomb threat was made. The union represents janitorial staff working at the University through a contractor, and also tradespeople and other service employees directly employed with the University,” the statement read. “The staff and membership of SEIU 32BJ District 615 does not condone any sort of violence, destruction of property, or harm to persons. The Union was shocked and dismayed to learn of the car fire and bomb threat at Tufts this morning. We pledge our full assistance with any official investigation, in whatever way we can help.”
Franks Soults, a spokesman for the union, said in a phone conversation that members of group have not spoken to authorities.
“Nobody here has any notion of anybody at the union being contacted police,” he said. The Tufts Labor Coalition, which represents students who back university workers, also condemned the fire and threats.
“The car fire and bomb threats made against several buildings on Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus early on the morning of May 9 are completely contrary to the values of Tufts Labor Coalition. TLC condemns violence and the destruction of property and does not employ either as a tactic,” the statement read. “TLC’s goal is to create fair and safe conditions for Tufts workers. TLC would never act in a way that would bring danger to any member of the Tufts community: workers, students, faculty and staff, or administrators. We are thankful for the first responders working to maintain the safety of our community and the essential employees who are remaining on campus.”
Anna Gaebler, a spokeswoman for TLC, said that she hasn’t spoken to police and was unaware if anyone with her organization had. Students were heeding the school’s order to stay in dorms or off campus.
“Maybe it’s someone who didn’t want to do exams,” said Tufts senior Julia Fowler, an astrophysics major from Austin, Texas. “I don’t know. I hope it’s not more serious than that.”
The University Herald claimed that Tufts, in its latest statement, said for the “peace of mind of the community and due to the ongoing investigation, there will be an enhanced police presence for the remainder of the day.”