Confusion reigns after TSU bomb threat

At 2:13 pm on November 28, Texas Southern University’s official Twitter account delivered a sobering message: “Due to a threat received from Houston Police Department, classes at Texas Southern University are cancelled and campus is being evacuated.” Twenty minutes later, they reiterated: “Students, faculty and staff of Texas Southern University are urged to evacuate campus due to a threat received from Houston Police Department. All TSU classes are cancelled for the remainder of the day.” An overhead speaker in the Jesse H. Jones School of Business told students and faculty to evacuate until further notice.

Nearby, at the Texas Southern University Science Building, a town hall featuring President Austin Lane was taking place. One student present at the event says Dr. Lane was fielding questions from students when he got a phone call. Dr. Lane stepped away for a brief period, then returned and addressed the crowd. “He basically said that there’s been a bomb threat — like, made on the school and whatnot — and he said that we all need to evacuate, like, right now,” the student recalls. “I had grabbed my bag, like, from the LSAT lap and we walked toward Blodgett.”

Meanwhile, confusion reigned on the “TSU Turnup or Transfer” GroupMe page, where many students converse about campus events. “Is this real?” asked one student. “Is it the drill?” inquired another. (Many students thought the incident was a drill, given that an active shooter drill had been scheduled for the following day. It was later canceled.) “I thought it was a drill and left EVERYTHING,” another student later lamented.

As it turned out, the threat was very real. HPD’s 911 Call Center received a call around 1:30 pm about a possible bomb. The caller mentioned TSU, according to the Houston Chronicle. (Fox 26 News’ website reported that the bomb threat specifically was made toward Mack C. Hannah Hall, an administrative building.) Resident Assistants called students in the dorms to make sure they left the building. Campus police blocked off Cleburne and Blodgett St. According to the Chronicle, nearly 2,000 students, along with faculty and staff, were evacuated from TSU buildings and dorms.

Once they left, however, they landed in a variety of places. Many students were crowded near the East Garage, at the corner of Sampson and Cleburne. Others huddled near the West Garage, near Ennis and Blodgett. Others headed much farther away: Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church opened its doors to displaced students. About 175 students came there, according to Vernon Umstead, Human Relations and Technology Manager at the church. “We opened up the church once we heard of the bomb threat. We went into action to try to figure out a way to assist Texas Southern University,” Umstead said. The church ordered pizzas, Umstead said, “so everybody could be nourished.”

At 4:35 pm, TSU tweeted: “TSU Police Department has issued an ‘all clear’ for the TSU campus. All evening classes remain cancelled. The University of Houston basketball game on campus for this evening will be placed as schedule[d]. TSU will have normal operations tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 29.”

A letter sent to the student body that day, signed by TSU SGA President Aaron Dallas and Senate Chair Tyler Smith. It read: “With the help of the Texas Southern Police Department and district personnel, the campus was intensively searched, and nothing was found. Subsequently, it was decided by TSU officials that classes and all school activities and practices for the evening would be canceled” — except, interestingly enough, for the basketball game. (The University of Houston was playing games at TSU’s HP&E Arena prior to the completion of their brand-new home, the Fertitta Center.)

“The Texas Southern University Counseling Center will be available if any students would like to speak with someone about this event,” the letter continued. It also highlighted the recently opened SGA Serenity Room, located on the 2nd floor of the recreation center. The space is designed for students to relax and decompress. Given that finals are coming up — on the heels of such an alarming event — students will likely welcome the opportunity for some R&R.