Updated: March 20, 2013 6:54PM
After shuttering and searching the campus for several hours following a series of bomb threats Wednesday morning, Aurora University administrators deemed the campus safe.
Then, they announced they wanted to find the perpetrators.
Aurora University President Rebecca Sherrick announced Wednesday afternoon that the school is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the identification and arrest of the person or people responsible for Wednesday morning’s bomb threats.
“We regard a bomb threat as a very serious criminal matter and intend to seek full redress for the costs and inconvenience incurred,” Sherrick wrote to the campus community Wednesday afternoon. “To email or phone a threat of this kind is an act of domestic terrorism that all of us as Americans must work together to stop.”
Early Wednesday morning, administrators received multiple bomb threats by email. In response, administrators canceled classes and evacuated the campus.
“At approximately 7:30 this morning, campus safety here in Aurora got the first in a series of four email messages relating to a bomb threat on campus. None of them specifically targeted a building. They were more generic,” Sherrick said in an email to alumni, students and city and university officials. “As it turns out, this is happening nationwide today, we know now that a long list of high schools and middle schools are reporting receipt of the same messages. Sadly, this is the kind of Internet ‘prank’ that troubles our society of all levels.
“However, nothing is more important to us at AU than the well-being of our students and employees. Therefore, I decided immediately to treat the threat as real and act accordingly,” she said.
Due to the threat, residential students were evacuated from the campus and both day and evening classes were canceled for Wednesday.
Aurora police spokesman Dan Ferrelli announced around 1 p.m. that the campus had been searched and no device had been found.
Residential were then allowed to come back on campus, and a lecture by Pulitzer Prize finalist and author Luis Alberto Urrea was scheduled to happen at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Crimi Auditorium on campus.
“We moved swiftly and communicated in a transparent and fast manner,” Aurora University Spokesman Steve McFarland said about the incident.
According to McFarland, the university needs to take all threats seriously.
“Unfortunately, this is the world that we live in,” McFarland said. “We take every threat as a serious one and act accordingly.”
The Aurora campus has an enrollment of approximately 4,300 students, but because of the relatively early hour that the threat was emailed in, the buildings were not full at the time of the evacuation.
Sixty-eight AU students and four professors were relocated to West Aurora’s Freeman Elementary School while the university’s campus was searched, where they were fed lunch and two kindergarten classrooms were cleared to make room for the students.
“They were playing with Legos and they were drawing,” said West Aurora spokesman Mike Chapin. “They were making the most of their time.”
The eight classes of fourth- and fifth-grade Freeman students who normally have class at AU as part of a partnership between the two schools were also relocated to Freeman.
“We weren’t shaken, it was more of a matter what happened,” an AU university employee who didn’t want to be identified said about the evacuation. “We were told to leave the building and basically go home because the classes were canceled and offices were shutting down.”