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Students reflect on safety measures during threat

By Zach Cihlar

Section: Features

October 20, 2017

On Wednesday, Aug. 26, Orientation Leaders (OLs) and Community Advisors (CAs) sat in the SCC Theatre as senior faculty members from the Department of Community Living (DCL) cut off a presentation given by the Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC) to announce that the university had received a bomb threat. DCL began to implement evacuation procedures, and filtered the students on campus out to the sports field across South Street.

There was an air of uncertainty and confusion, according to some OLs, who did not know in the moment whether they were in serious danger or not. Ushered quickly from the SCC to the field, student leaders guided the group across the street, aided by a few public safety officers while a majority of the DCL staff held back to begin inspections of the campus. “There was not much time to think about what was going on in the moment, we just had to move and hope to get more information later,” said OL Lily Eligator ’19.

After reaching the soccer field, all present on campus congregated while they waited for further information from public safety and the professional staff. During this time, facilities handed out water and food for the students, Eligator recalled.

“I felt safe the whole time,” she said about the entire experience. Nevertheless, she couldn’t help but wonder “about the tons of JCC bomb threats,” referring to Jewish Community Centers which had recently received bomb threats. She reflected her fear that the threat at Brandeis may have some relation to those directed at the JCC.

Despite a lack of information regarding the updates of the inspections, the BCC staff helped students handle the stress of the day. Working jointly with student leaders and professional staff, the BCC counselors attended to students needs through dialogue, mindfulness and stress-relieving activities, Eligator said.

The rush to get off campus created congestion on Loop Road, slowing the evacuation process for those attempting to leave in their vehicles. An anonymous student working at Brandeis reported that “a bunch of people were panicked,” but the slow speed of evacuation for the individual quelled the panic. “It made me hope that if it was a legitimate threat that they would have a different evacuation plan,” the student said.

Joel Hemsi ’19, a Roosevelt Fellow, learned about Brandeis’ bomb threat while on the plane to Boston Logan airport. Connected to Wi-Fi on the plane, she read through the various emails Public Safety sent out to the entire student body announcing the closing of the school. Family and friends attempted to contact her to ensure her safety and to learn more information about the events at Brandeis.

As a student living on campus, Hemsi had to worry about finding a place to stay in Boston until the campus opened again. Ultimately, the Roosevelt Fellow stayed with family in the area until she could move into campus and proceed with training the next day.

Jorge Chavez ’20 experienced the threat while in training to mentor in the Student Support Services Program (SSSP). Like Eligator, he was satisfied with Public Safety’s response. “To be honest I did not feel scared at all. I felt that the school took the correct precautions and kept the situation under control,” the sophomore said.

The people on the field shuffled into Gosman after Public Safety did a thorough inspection of the athletic facility. Various departments across campus worked together to ensure a sense of safety among the students on campus. Among them was also the Athletics Department, which housed the students in Gosman for the remainder of the day.

From the beginning of the threat, Brandeis administration remained transparent about the situation and frequently updated the students affected, Eligator said. Despite the confusion about the motive, students were assured they were safe and that public safety was investigating with the utmost care, the OL recalled.

After spending a good portion of the day in Gosman gym waiting for the buildings across South Street to be cleared, the students enjoyed lunch catered by Sodexo and a pizza dinner ordered in courtesy of Brandeis Athletics. Students were able to return to residence halls and had access to the rest of campus in the evening shortly after dinner.

Zach Cihlar was on the Orientation CORE committee.

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