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Despite panic-inducing rumors, officials do not regret disclosing threat

October 24, 2014

Oct. 15 was a quiet day at UW-River Falls, despite the ominous threat, but underneath the quiet surface anxiety and fear stirred up rumors that spread like wildfire around the campus the night before.

Blake Fry, special assistant to the chancellor, said he heard rumors about stolen keycards, bomb threats and evacuations in the dorms, and clowns with weapons roaming the streets on campus; but problems really started when people treated the rumors as fact.

“I think people need to understand that when they start rumors like that it only causes panic among fellow students,” Fry said.

Despite the rumors, Fry said he does not regret telling the students the direct quote of the threat, even though it seemed to cause more anxiety around a particular day, rather than a general feeling of unease. He said there was a lot of time and thought that went into the messages that the UWRF campus received in order to be as transparent as possible without putting the investigation in jeopardy.

“Our experience is when you don’t provide information then the rumor-mill will fill that information void,” Fry said. “In this case, we provided information and there were still rumors built on top of that, which was something I had not seen quite to that level before—that was probably the most disconcerting part of everything.”

Provost Fernando Delgado said that if the nature of the threat had been described instead of releasing the exact quote it would have invited people to interpret the explanation in a broader range, and that he thinks it was a good decision to release the quote to the public.

“I think there was a reaction to this but at least it gave a fixed, factual point for people to react to, instead of a circle that we would have drawn around it and everybody trying to fill in the void,” Delgado said.

Once the direct quote of the threat came out, Fry said he heard from some people that their anxieties were somewhat reduced after discovering the quote came from William Shakespeare and not from “just anywhere.”

Fry also said he does not know why the threat targeted the “Ides of October.” Every month has an ides, which references the exact middle day of every month.

Despite the fact that the threat has not been acted on, it made students, faculty, staff and police work together for a common cause. In an email interview, Chancellor Dean Van Galen expressed his gratitude for everyone involved in keeping the campus safe.

“I am grateful to everyone involved in helping to ensure the safety on our campus, including members of our police department and other law enforcement agencies,” Van Galen said.

Darren Spence, a UWRF student, said that he did not let the rumors and threat scare him off of campus on Wednesday.

“I choose not to let fear control me. Like Franklin Roosevelt said, ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ When you let fear get the best of you then that’s no way to live your life,” Spence said.

There are still many unanswered questions surrounding the threat and rumors but no more information has been released to the public at this time.