Warning to stay alert after uni threat


Dunedin police are continuing their investigation into an online shooting threat made against the University of Otago.

The threat was posted by an anonymous social media user on bulletin board 4chan just before midnight on Monday.

"If you're in Dunedin, I wouldn't recommend coming to Otago University on Wednesday," the threat, which has now been deleted from 4chan, said. 

Several students spoke of being on edge on campus this morning and many more stayed away from classes throughout the day. 

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Acting Area Commander Inspector Mel Aitken said this afternoon that police are following a number of lines of inquiry, and are working to verify the authenticity and source of the post.

At least six plainclothes officers were seen on campus in the morning wearing backpacks, but with bulletproof vests clearly visible.

Insp Aitken said police would maintain a visible presence in the university area, and a number of contigencies would remain in place. 

People on the university grounds should remain vigilant and alert, she said, and any suspicious activity should be reported. Police are continuing to work with the Vice-Chancellor and the University of Otago administration in relation to this. 

Police warned against any pranks, including "small jokes between friends", saying they would be taken seriously.

University staff are declining to comment on the matter, redirecting all inquiries to Otago's media communications department.   

Some university eateries did not open today and only a sprinkling of students were seen at the university's main computer lab this morning, just a week out from second semester exams.

In the link building, three restaurants - The Fridge, Union Buffet and Orient Express - as well as Cafe Albany, were closed for the day because of the threat, university staff said.  

A student, who asked to remain anonymous, said this morning she had never seen the library so empty at exam time.

"Usually it'd be absolutely packed," she said. "You usually can't get a seat."

She said she was "staying alert . . . I'm not walking around with headphones in".

"But I wouldn't even think of staying home, because I've got three exams in nine days."

Another student, Kieran Duncan (19), said there was "hardly anyone" in the library last night, either.

Anonymous messaging application Yik Yak, which allows users to view messages posted by the people around them, was overwhelmed by messages about the threat this morning, with several users saying they planned to skip classes today. 

Some attend classes 

Students at Otago University hall of residence Selwyn College, one of the closest places of accommodation to the university, had not been deterred by the threat.

College warden Mike Corkery said there was a "bit of talk about it but as far as I know, no student has made the decision to not attend classes".

Mr Corkery said students were attending classes, especially as it is the last week of lectures before exams. "It's business as usual here. That is our policy and the policy of the university," he said.

Otago University politics lecturer Bryce Edwards said it was notable that there were fewer students on campus, but the students that were present seemed "remarkably calm".

Support for students

An Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) spokeswoman said the association was open as usual, "much like the university".

"Our advice to students is to pay close attention to any messages that come through from the university of the police," she said.

OUSA would be posting the messages on its Facebook page, and the university would also be communicating via social media and the student email network.

The spokeswoman said OUSA's student support centre on Ethel Benjamin Pl would be open as usual.

"People are welcome to come in and have a chat if they're feeling stressed," she said.

- Additional reporting Craig Borley and Damian George of the ODT; Solbin Kang of NZME News Service 

 

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