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Ohio Union evacuated, no safety notice sent to students

Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor

The Ohio Union was evacuated Tuesday evening following a report of an unattended backpack found outside the building.
An on-scene Ohio State University police officer said the backpack was purposefully detonated. Detonating suspicious packages is protocol, and does not necessarily mean it contained an explosive device.
The unattended package contained no explosives, according to a notice from OSU Media Relations received by The Lantern Tuesday evening. No public safety notice was sent to students during the evacuation or immediately after.
Parts of High Street were temporarily shut down from 12th Avenue to 15th Avenue and College Road was closed from 12th Avenue to Hagerty Drive, according to University Police. Vehicle traffic was diverted to side streets because of the High Street closure.
The building was evacuated at about 6:00 p.m.
“Police were just saying, ‘Hey, get out of the building’, and they kept saying to move further away,” said Clare FitzGerald, a third-year in human nutrition and employee evacuated from Woody’s Tavern in the Ohio Union.
Many of the people who were evacuated from the Ohio Union gathered under awnings of High Street businesses near 13th Avenue until they were allowed back into the building just after 7:30 p.m.
Some students, such as Undergraduate Student Government President Taylor Stepp, were concerned students did not receive a public safety notice about the suspicious package.
Stepp, a third-year in public affairs, said he heard about the situation from his mom and turned to Twitter for information.
Without information coming from the university, he said he “pieced most of it together from information on Twitter.”
“I expected to be getting a safety notice, but we never got one. So I was very perplexed on that,” Stepp said.
Gayle Saunders, assistant vice president of media and public relations, said if there was a threat, an alert would have been sent.
“Officials determined there was no threat to the university community, which is why no emergency notifications or warnings were issued,” Saunders said. “The response by police and fire authorities was precautionary and in accordance with their standard procedures for inspecting the unattended item. Had there been a threat, we would have notified the university community and provided appropriate action steps to take.”
The University Police Twitter account @OSUPOLICE said at about 8 p.m. the “Situation at Union was NOT a threat. It was an unattended item. Police and fire response was precautionary per standard procedure.”
Despite the distinction, Stepp said, “I would have liked to see a crime alert.”
Others said they did not feel they were in danger in regards to the suspicious package.
“There was just something like this a week or so ago, so I feel like hopefully it will be fine,” said Chanel Walker, a third-year in finance who waited outside The Newport Music Hall until the evacuation was lifted.
This attitude of normalcy regarding threats received recently is one that resonates with some students on campus. A threat of violence focused on an OSU campus cafeteria was reported to students in a public safety notice on April 3. Postings to fantasy role-player game sites prompted University Police to increase presence on and around campus dining facilities due to the threat.
Four days later, another public safety notice was issued to warn the campus community about the threat of a shooting or explosive violence on campus also geared toward a cafeteria or unspecified area on campus. Police presence was again heightened on campus until the window of concern had passed.
OSU Deputy Chief of Police Richard Morman said in a Tuesday email there was no new information to release and that police were still investigating.
A bombing occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday, where at least three people were killed and more than 170 were injured.
Because of the marathon explosions, some students were more worried about the suspicious package at the Ohio Union.
“(I’m) a little bit (worried) with everything that’s happening in Boston,” said Kelly Simon, a third-year in animal sciences.

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