March 1, 2024

Members of the Board, I’m sure you’ve already heard it, but I think it needs to be repeated: the University failed miserably in response to the active shooter hoax. The fact that it took over an hour to put out an ENS message demonstrates a potentially negligent dereliction of duty by the involved public safety administrators. If there had actually been a mass shooting, the hour delay in communication could have cost lives. The University needs to ensure that the ENS infrastructure is stable and that there are personnel available to respond to emergency situations.

The situation gets worse: though fortunately the reports of a mass shooter were false, there was (at least) one shot fired at the Hillman Library when Pittsburgh and University police arrived on scene. It is unfathomable that a law enforcement officer would consider it appropriate to gain entrance to a scene by firing a shot into a window. Not only did that increase the panic of the situation – I’ve heard stories of students jumping from the second floor window – but it also created a physical threat to the safety of students. A bullet from a standard handgun has the ability to penetrate walls and ricochet off hard surfaces; plus, there was undoubtedly broken glass at the scene that could have caused serious injuries. Were there not enough entrances already?*

I still have several questions about the hoax shooting threat. Was anyone injured during the evacuation? How many shots were fired? How many officers fired shots? These are questions that need answered for the sake of transparency. The officer or officers who fired into the Hillman Library must be suspended from duty, and body camera footage of the incident must be released to the public.

The increasing civil unrest in the United States threatens us all. Continuing economic downturn and political polarization will only make these situations more frequent in the months and years to come. Members of the Board, I implore you to apply maximum pressure on University leaders to ensure that members of the Pitt community are safe, and to demand accountability in the case of the shooting at the library.

Thank you.

* It would later be clarified that at least one exit on the first floor of the Hillman Library was chained closed. This is likely why the Pittsburgh Police felt it necessary to shoot through the glass panel to gain entry. One member of the Board reported injuries related to the panic. The level of incompetence and negligence demonstrated by the University is criminal.

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