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Answers to Questions in Wake of Marathon Bombings

Assurance, advice from BU security and counseling experts


With one BU student among the 3 killed and another among the 170 injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, the University community was particularly unnerved by Monday’s tragedy. The Dean of Students Office says it’s been flooded with questions from concerned callers.

Below are questions about safety and security, answered by BU officials.

BU Today: Is the campus secure?

Thomas Robbins, chief of the Boston University Police Department: The Boston University campus remains a safe and secure place. The focus of this attack was the Boston Marathon finish line, targeting runners and spectators. We will have additional officers assigned across campus to provide visibility and protection to our community as this investigation proceeds. Extra officers have been assigned to all shifts for the foreseeable future.

Are there plans to sweep the campus for explosives?

Robbins: Explosive sweeps by bomb-detection canines will be conducted on campus as needed, preceding designated, large-scale events. To be effective, a sweep is conducted in an area that can be reasonably secured after the sweep, to ensure that the area remains clear. General, wide-area sweeps are impractical and ineffective. In addition, officers will respond to any calls about suspicious activity or suspicious packages on campus.

Peter Fiedler (COM’77), vice president for administrative services: We are positioning police on a rotating basis around campus, using bicycles and motorcycles as well as vehicles and walking patrols.

Is it safe to travel around Boston?

Robbins: Boston’s leaders have deemed the city open for business, with the exception of a specifically cordoned-off area of investigation around Copley Square.

Why was the decision made to hold classes the day after the tragedy?

Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), Dean of Students: Officials informed us that it would be safe to hold classes as usual by the morning of April 16. We received no information regarding threats to the Charles River or Medical Campuses.

Karl Osborn and Mike Vanaria, Boston University Police Department BUPD

Boston University Police Department officers Karl Osborn (left) and Mike Vanaria on patrol in Marsh Plaza Tuesday morning.

What if I don’t feel comfortable going to class?

Elmore: If you do not feel comfortable attending class, please reach out to your professors to make alternative arrangements. Check in with your faculty or work or intern supervisors if you feel unable to go ahead with your regular responsibilities.

Should students living off campus take any precautions?

Fiedler: It’s the same for off-campus and on-campus students—they should have high-end awareness, and if they see something unusual, report it. I don’t think there is any less safety now than two days ago, but people do need to be careful and keep their wits about them and their eyes open.

I haven’t been able to reach a friend who went to the Marathon. What should I do?

Elmore: If you haven’t been able to find a friend who may have been at the scene of the explosions, contact the BU Police immediately at 617-353-2121.

Why aren’t BU Alerts sent to parents?

Elmore: BU Alerts need to get the important word out to the University community swiftly. In order to do that, we limit the recipients to students, faculty, and staff. Our focus is getting word out to those on the ground on our campuses as quickly as possible.

We do tell students that if they receive a message from our Alert system, they should let their parents know what is going on. Parents can always see what alerts were sent to their student by visiting BU Today or the main BU webpage. In an emergency, the latest alert will be posted on a bar across the top of the page.

Are any BU events going to be affected by what happened at the Marathon?

Elmore: We are currently looking at any large-scale events scheduled at the University in the coming weeks and reviewing if it is safe to proceed. A member of the University administration will be contacting the students and staff in charge of those events if changes need to be made.

Can I organize a charity event to benefit victims?

Elmore: If your student organization would like to organize a charity event,  contact Abby Myette in the Student Activities Office at 617-353-3635 or almyette@bu.edu.

If you would like to help, but do not want to plan your own event, the Community Service Center will be gathering a list of opportunities, including blood drives. Contact the Community Service Center at 617-353-4710 or bucsc@bu.edu.

What about students abroad, particularly those in London, where the funeral for former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the London Marathon are expected to draw huge crowds?

Robbins: It is always wise for international travelers to check the State Department website for updated safety information for their destination. In addition, they may want to check in with local police for any safety advice they may provide.

Bernd Widdig, executive director of Boston University Study Abroad: BU’s Study Abroad program in London and other locations maintains detailed contingency and emergency communication plans. All students participating in a program are informed, in writing and in person, at the beginning of their experience about ways to stay safe in their host city. Vigilance and situational awareness are emphasized, and they are advised to pay attention to, and follow the directives of, program staff and local authorities. Specifically, our in-country staff, including those in London, reemphasize these fundamental safety lessons for students throughout their participation. For events where safety concerns are heightened, such as the London Marathon or the Thatcher funeral, we increase our communication about safety awareness and the need to follow local public safety advisories.

Any advice for students and staff about personal safety and security?

Robbins: Everyone should remain vigilant and attentive when it comes to his or her own safety. Please report any suspicious activity or packages to local police.

If students need counseling because of the tragedy, where should they go?

Margaret Ross, director of Behavioral Medicine at Student Health Services: The counseling resources are Behavioral Medicine, 617-353-3569; the Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center (SARP), 617-353-7277; University chaplains, 617-353-3560; Bonnie Brown, registered nurse and nurse administrator at the Center for Anxiety & Related Disorders, 617-353-9610; and Dori Hutchinson or Larry Kohn at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 617-353-3549.

And for faculty or staff?

Diane Tucker, chief human resources officer: There are multiple venues. The Faculty & Staff Assistance Office is a confidential counseling and referral service for faculty, staff, and their families. Any employee who has concerns or would like some help in managing Monday’s events may contact that office at 617-353-5381 or by email at fsao@bu.edu. Additionally, we are prepared to provide a group session for any school or department that has a number of employees concerned about Monday’s events. Contact Karen Brouhard to arrange a convenient time. We also have locations on each campus to schedule an appointment:

Charles River Campus, 270 Bay State Road, B-30.
Medical Campus: Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center, 85 E. Newton St., M-809.

Susan Seligson contributed to this story.

Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

4 Comments on Answers to Questions in Wake of Marathon Bombings

  • Michelle on 04.17.2013 at 6:18 pm

    As a BU parent (CAS ’16) and American I am still shocked and very saddened by Monday’s tragedy. I just wanted to thank BU and the BU community for being so thorough and dedicated to the students, their families and the entire BU community with information and services for assistance to all. The task is enormous but I think BU has done a great job for all connected to BU. The loss of life and the enormous injuries are heartbreaking. Our deepest sympathies to all families deeply affected by loss and injuries. May all families heal.

  • Luann on 04.18.2013 at 7:29 am

    Well said, Michelle, thank you! Also a BU parent (also CAS 16!), I have been more than impressed with the communications from the school in every emergency that has come their way. It has been a hard year for the school. Prayers and sympathy to the entire community.

  • Kathy H. on 04.20.2013 at 6:00 pm

    As a parent of a future terrier (CAS ’17), l have been following BU Today. It has been very reassuring to see how BU has handled the situation. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the effected families.

  • Will Martin on 05.24.2013 at 1:10 am

    Bu has one of the effective communications system. One this sad incident. We have to encourage Bu students on national level so other university student will take a good lesson from them.

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