Bomb threat linked to racist incidents at Westfield State

  • Students were evacuated on Sunday from Westfield State University's Scanlon Hall, above, due to a bomb threat authorities believe was linked to a recent string of racist incidents and hate speech on campus. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Published: 12/5/2017 10:06:25 PM

WESTFIELD — A bomb threat Sunday at a Westfield State University residence hall may have been linked to a recent series of racist incidents and hate speech on campus.

At 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, students living in Scanlon Hall were evacuated after a bomb threat message was found in the building, according to university spokeswoman Tricia Oliver. City, state and university police responded to the incident, and students were cleared to return to their rooms at 5:10 a.m. after authorities conducted a full sweep of the building with bomb-sniffing dogs.

“We have reason to believe that it is linked to the bias incidents that have occurred recently on campus,” Oliver said of the bomb threat. Given the ongoing investigation of the threat, however, Oliver declined to elaborate on why authorities believe the threat was related to those incidents.

Last month, a threatening racist note was slipped under a student’s door in Scanlon Hall, anti-Semitic symbols and racist slurs were discovered in the residence hall on several occasions and a female minority student reported that three white males physically assaulted and verbally abused her with racial slurs on campus, according to messages from President Ramon Torrecilha to the campus community.

Those incidents come on the heels of other similar ones this year, including anti-Semitic symbols, homophobic and racial slurs, obscene drawings and sexist profanity found in Davis Hall dormitory in October, and racist and sexist messages written three consecutive evenings on black students’ dorm room doors in September.

In reaction to the continuing racist and discriminatory incidents, hundreds of students staged a walkout last month.

The university, for its part, has decided to install more than 400 security cameras on campus, with a focus on residence halls. Installation began Monday. Previously, Oliver said, there had been a few cameras on campus, but none specific to dormitories.

“The purpose of this initiative is to provide our community and the Department of Public Safety with another tool to address, and possibly prevent, the continuation of hateful and destructive acts that have disrupted our living and learning environment,” Torrecilha said in a statement on the university’s website.

In the meantime, the university has placed around-the-clock security staff at residence halls until the end of the semester, has added supplemental counselors available to students and has increased from $2,500 to $5,000 a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the bigoted acts on campus this semester.

Torrecilha also said he has been in contact with the leadership of the Springfield NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League of New England about countering racism on campus, and the office of state Attorney General Maura Healey has also provided support and resources.

The university is encouraging anyone with information on those responsible for the threats to call a university police tip line at 413-572-8690. The university is also soliciting anonymous tips through the Silent Witness link at

Dusty Christensen can be reached at

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