All-clear given at 4 Harvard buildings following unconfirmed explosives report (updated)

Harvard Building Evacuations

Elise Amendola/AP

SWAT team officers arrive at a building at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Monday, Dec. 16, 2013. Four buildings on campus were evacuated Monday after campus police received an unconfirmed report that explosives may have been placed inside, interrupting final exams.

2013 Harvard University Commencement

Paul Marotta/Getty Images

File: General atmosphere at 2013 Harvard University 362nd Commencement Exercises at Harvard University on May 30, 2013 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Updated 3:35 p.m.

Four buildings on Harvard University's campus were evacuated Monday after police received an email claiming that explosive devices may have been hidden inside, but after hours of searches and disruptions to final exams, no suspicious devices were found.

The buildings were evacuated and access to Harvard Yard was restricted after the email was received at about 8:40 a.m. Monday, shortly before students were set to begin final exams.

Investigators from several agencies searched the buildings for hours and cleared students to return to all four by mid-afternoon. One of the buildings was a freshman dormitory; classes are held in the other three.

In a statement to the Harvard community, Harvard Executive Vice President Katie Lapp said that the buildings were evacuated "out of an abundance of caution" and that activities at the Ivy League school in Cambridge were returning to normal.

"I am relieved to report that no suspicious devices were found," Lapp said in her statement.

She said Harvard police, and local, state and federal authorities, are continuing to investigate to find out who is responsible.

Harvard officials would not comment on speculation among students that the email was a hoax timed to coincide with finals at the school.

"I have a good guess somebody called it in so they wouldn't have to take an exam," said Alexander Ryjik, a junior from Alexander, Va., who was just about to take his Politics of American Education final when the evacuations were announced.

"It's frustrating because now the exam will have to be postponed," he said.

Harvard did not immediately say when students would be allowed to take the finals that were cancelled because of the evacuations.

The mood on campus was calm as students streamed out of Harvard Yard on a frigid morning with temperatures in the 20s. The gates around the yard were closed and people were allowed to leave but not enter unless they had school IDs.

A classroom building was also briefly evacuated Monday at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, which has 16,000 undergraduates and graduate students who are also taking final exams this week. University police got a call from someone who said they had seen a person with a gun in the building, which was closed while university, Boston and state police searched it. They determined there was no one with a gun and the call is being investigated, said school spokesman DeWayne Lehman.

Last month, another Ivy League school, Yale University in Connecticut, was locked down for nearly six hours while authorities investigated a phone call saying an armed man was heading to shoot it up, a warning they later said was likely a hoax.

And in February, someone called in a hoax about a gunman on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, another elite school about two miles fromHarvard. The university said the caller claimed the gunman was a staff member looking for revenge after the suicide of an Internet activist accused of illegally using MIT computers.

Associated Press writer Matt Small in Washington contributed to this report.

—Denise Lavoie, AP

Updated 12:48 p.m. 

Four buildings on Harvard University's campus near Boston were evacuated for hours Monday, interrupting final exams, after police received a report that explosives may have been placed inside. The buildings were reopened after hours of searches.

The FBI was investigating the report along with Cambridge and university police and other agencies, and the school said the buildings were evacuated out of an abundance of caution.

"Harvard's focus is on the safety of our students, faculty and staff," the university said in a statement. It would not immediately say after reopening all the buildings whether any explosives were found.

Three of the evacuated buildings — one a dorm, and two classroom buildings — border Harvard Yard, and the other was the science center at the Ivy League school in Cambridge.

The mood on campus was calm as students streamed out of Harvard Yard on a frigid morning with temperatures in the 20s. The gates around the yard were closed and people were allowed to leave but not enter unless they had school IDs.

Juniors Alexander Ryjik of Alexandria, Va., and Diego Abrahao of Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., said their professor was handing out exam booklets for their Politics of American Education class shortly after 9 a.m. when the alert went out that they had to leave Emerson Hall.

"I have a good guess somebody called it in so they wouldn't have to take an exam," Ryjik said. "It's frustrating because now the exam will have to be postponed."

A classroom building was also briefly evacuated Monday at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, which has 16,000 undergraduates and graduate students who are also taking final exams this week. University police got a call from someone who said they had seen a person with a gun in the building, which was closed while university, Boston and state police searched it. They determined there was no one with a gun and the call is being investigated, said school spokesman DeWayne Lehman.

Last month, another Ivy League school, Yale University in Connecticut, was locked down for nearly six hours while authorities investigated a phone call saying an armed man was heading to shoot it up, a warning they later said was likely a hoax.

And in February, someone called in a hoax about a gunman on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, another elite school about two miles from Harvard. The university said the gunman was a staff member looking for revenge after the suicide of an Internet activist accused of illegally using MIT computers.

Associated Press writer Matt Small in Washington contributed to this report.

Earlier: Harvard University has reopened a third building that was evacuated because of a report of possible explosives on campus.

Students have been told that they may return to the classroom building. Harvard Yard has also re-opened.

Two other buildings, a dorm and another classroom building, reopened earlier. A fourth building, the school's Science Center, remains closed.

A search has yet to turn up any explosives.

An alert went out shortly after 9 a.m. Monday telling students at the Ivy League school outside Boston to leave the four buildings.

It's exam time at Harvard and some students were just about to start finals when the alert went out.

The FBI is investigating along with Cambridge and university police and other agencies.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the buildings have been evacuated while the report is investigated," the school said in a statement. "Harvard's focus is on the safety of our students, faculty and staff."

By 1 p.m., no explosives had been found and students were being allowed back into the dorm and one of the classroom buildings.

The mood on campus was calm as students streamed out of Harvard Yard on a frigid morning with temperatures in the 20s. The gates around the yard were closed and people were allowed to leave but not enter unless they had school IDs.

Juniors Alexander Ryjik of Alexandria, Va., and Diego Abrahao of Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., said their professor was handing out exam booklets for their Politics of American Education class shortly after 9 a.m. when the alert went out that they had to leave Emerson Hall.

"I have a good guess somebody called it in so they wouldn't have to take an exam," Ryjik said. "It's frustrating because now the exam will have to be postponed."

Sophomore Santiago Pardo said by phone that he and his roommate were keeping close tabs on the situation from their dorm, Adams House, which is not near Harvard Yard.

"We feel safe," he said. "We're not scared."

A classroom building was also briefly evacuated Monday at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, which has 16,000 undergraduates and graduate students who are also taking final exams this week. University police got a call from someone who said they had seen a person with a gun in the building, which was closed while university, Boston and state police searched it. They determined there was no one with a gun and the call is being investigated, said school spokesman DeWayne Lehman.

Last month, another Ivy League school, Yale University in Connecticut, was locked down for nearly six hours while authorities investigated a phone call saying an armed man was heading to shoot it up, a warning they later said was likely a hoax.

And in February, someone called in a hoax about a gunman on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, another elite school about two miles from Harvard. The university said the gunman was a staff member looking for revenge after the suicide of an Internet activist accused of illegally using MIT computers.

Photo from Harvard Twitter account

Tweet: Firefighters respond to explosives report

Tweet from Harvard's The Crimson

Tweet from Harvard's the Crimson showing police presence

This story has been updated.

With contributions by KPCC staff

More in U.S. / World

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus