Midweek bomb threat halts MCLA operations

The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) responded to a bomb threat last Thursday, evacuating campus in response to a note promising harm.

On the afternoon in question, a student found a handwritten message on a piece of lined paper in the men’s bathroom in Murdoch Hall that stated three bombs would go off at 4:30 p.m. The student immediately brought the message to MCLA police  and the college notified the North Adams Police Department.

The entire MCLA campus was subsequently notified of the threat via e-mail and phone alerts. North Adams city authorities ordered a campus evacuation, sending all MCLA students and personnel to the Armory on Ashland Street at approximately 3:30 p.m. City authorities used special CodeRED, a means of communicating with the entire city of North Adams in emergencies, to notify residents of Porter, Blackinton, Hoosac, Bond, Corinth, Davenport and Church Streets of the threat. Streets in surrounding areas were immediately closed off to prevent further travel. State police found no evidence of bombs during their sweep of all MCLA campus buildings in the early evening.

MCLA serves both residential and commuter students and can have more than 1200 students and 200 faculty members on campus at any given time.

In the interest of safety, campus police and North Adams police officials decided to evacuate campus 15 minutes after finding the note. All students and MCLA faculty, staff and personnel present on campus at the time of the threat were led to the Armory to wait out the scare. They stayed in the Armory until state officials confirmed that there was no immediate threat. MCLA canceled classes for the night while state police and firefighters scoured campus buildings and parking.

At 6 p.m., the all-clear notification was sounded and MCLA resumed its normal proceedings. The college kept its food services open late on Thursday evening to accommodate students.

“[The college and the city] were pretty facile in getting information out to people,” Jim Stakenas, MCLA vice president of administration and finance, said in a press gathering with local media after the threat was debunked around 6:15 p.m. “It really was a city and college community effort.”

State and city officials are currently investigating the bomb threat. State policemen and crime scene investigators worked to collect evidence, fingerprints and photos on Thursday night, targeting anything that could be helpful in identifying the suspect behind the threat.

Officials hope that security cameras in the surrounding areas will prove useful. State police interviewed students who were in and around Murdoch in the time frame in question.

Though no suspect has been named as of press time, the perpetrator will face the charge of disorderly conduct, and potentially other charges depending on recommendations from the district attorney’s office.

Officials have considered the recent MCLA bomb threat as a possible connection or allusion to the Boston marathon explosions (“Two bombs explode at marathon finish line,” April 24), but officials have not found evidence to support this conjecture as of yet.

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