By Liam Dacko
Stonehill College is now open after school officials canceled all classes and activities Friday in response to a “threat” against the institution.
Director of Communications and Media Relations Martin McGovern said law enforcement officials felt the college was safe to open its doors once again after an hours-long assessment.
“We have some relief at this point,” he said.
At this time, the College is choosing not to release information about the nature of the threat to the public, as the investigation into the issue is still ongoing.
“We still have a lot of work to do to see who is behind this,” McGovern said.
College officials first learned about the threat Thursday night. Senior administration immediately engaged with the Easton Police Department about the issue.
“They were very thorough in helping to search for the threat,” McGovern said.
Chief Peter Carnes of Campus Police alerted the community about the situation at approximately 1:15 a.m. Friday.
“On Thursday night, the Stonehill College Police Department was alerted to a threatening message left in the bathroom of an administrative building…Out of an abundance of caution, we will have increased police presence throughout campus,” he wrote in the announcement.
McGovern said school officials continued working overnight with outside law enforcement, including the Massachusetts State Police, to determine whether or not the threat was credible.
Upon reviewing the state of the investigation Friday morning, the administration decided to cancel all school activities for the rest of the day. Employees were allowed to go home and students were given the option to leave campus or remain in residence halls until the threat had been neutralized.
“We decided to err on the side of caution and let people know there was a window of high alert,” McGovern said.
The senior administration was impressed with the “orderly” and “respectful” way that students, faculty and staff vacated school grounds Friday afternoon, McGovern said.
“There were some traffic jams, of course, but people were very responsible,” he said.
After the College was shut down, law enforcement officers began searching campus buildings for evidence related to the threat. The Roche Dining Commons were cleared at approximately 1:30 p.m. Friday.
“The search of Roche Dining Commons has been completed and will open at 2:00 p.m. Please note that searches of residence halls have not been completed therefore we ask that you remain in the Roche Dining Commons until we notify you that you may return to your residence. Students may also stay in the Sports Complex if they wish to do so as there will be pizza and water available shortly,” McGovern said in an announcement sent to the community via email.
Throughout the rest of the day, officers searched every building on campus. McGovern said this process was both “rigorous” and “huge.”
“Law enforcement was very methodical,” he said.
Although college officials regret the inconvenience of this investigation, they are happy they made the decision to proceed cautiously with this situation, McGovern said.
“Safety is our number one priority,” he said.
In light of this threat, Stonehill Campus Police will maintain an increased presence on campus in the coming days. Anyone with information that could help college officials in their investigation are asked to contact Campus Police at 508-565-5555.
More to come as this story develops.