UTC bomb scares threaten students, cost taxpayers

UTC bomb scares threaten students, cost taxpayers

February 9th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

It seems that bomb threats at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus have become a tradition.

Several university buildings were yet again evacuated last week after a bomb threat was received. The threat, as usual, resulted in canceled classes and swarms of emergency personnel rushing to campus to search and secure evacuated buildings.

It is the fifth time in almost as many months that such an event has occurred, and the constant distraction is taking a toll on students. But the students aren't the only ones who should be irritated. Taxpayers are facing a hefty payout as a result of the accumulating cost of responding to each incident.

UTC spokesman Chuck Cantrell said the rash of bomb threats remains under investigation. He would not disclose the manner in which the university received the latest threat.

"These cases are being investigated by the Chattanooga Police and Fire Departments and I can't discuss the incident because of Homeland Security laws," Cantrell noted. "These are serious crimes."

Most of the incidents last year occurred during midterm or final exams, an indication that the threats are more likely the brainchild of an knuckle-headed student hoping to get out of taking a calculus test, rather than the work of a terrorist operative.

The Feb. 1 event, however, transpired early in the semester. That may signal a rough road ahead for many students who - during a similar incident late last year - were forced to brave the elements as they took their exams outdoors.

Not only are the threats an unfair disruption to students, the price tag for responding to each incident is costly - as much as $100,000 per bomb threat, Cantrell told the Times Free Press.

And as the costs increase after each event, taxpayers will soon realize that - to paraphrase a quote attributed to the late Illinois Sen. Everett Dirksen - after a bomb threat here, and a bomb threat there, pretty soon you're talking some real money.

It is astonishing, given the post-9/11 era of email and telephone surveillance, that law enforcement personnel cannot locate and apprehend the nitwit (or nitwits) who perpetrated these pranks.

We are fortunate Friday's threat - and the four others - was only an inconvenience for UTC college students and personnel.

The regularity of such events, however, makes it likely that someday those on campus will cease to take such threats seriously - if they haven't already. No one wants that to happen.

But these routine bomb threats will further force students and taxpayers to open their wallets and finance these shenanigans. No one wants that to happen either.

It is a troubling indictment on UTC, local law enforcement and even federal Homeland Security measures that the pranksters responsible for these threats have not been caught. Until they are, the costs and the frustrations will continue to mount for students and taxpayers alike.