The Threat of Terror Hits Close to Home


I received the following email earlier today from our University’s Office of Public Safety:

Federal authorities have  notified colleges and universities in our region that threats of violence have been made against “an unspecified university near Philadelphia”. The information includes a specific date of Monday, Oct. 5, 2015 at 2:00 pm. Authorities have no other knowledge of a specific threat.

After that email was sent out to the entire Villanova community, I began to receive emails from some of my students saying that they had discussed the matter with their parents, and have decided to skip class tomorrow.

I told the students that I understood the reason for their decision, and thanked them for letting me know.

Then a few hours later we received an updated email from public safety:

I have heard from a number of community members regarding the safety advisory that was sent out earlier today. Some have expressed concern about the safety of the campus tomorrow, and I am writing now to provide some additional information which will hopefully help alleviate some of the those concerns. The advisory to the Philadelphia-area colleges from federal authorities was sent, in their own words, “with an abundance of caution.” It was sent to our university community in that same spirit.

Also with an abundance of caution, the Villanova is taking extra precautions, adding additional patrols and enlisting the assistance of the Radnor Police. Making people aware of the situation will also help encourage the reporting of any suspicious or unusual activity that could occur on campus.

Because the information the federal authorities received is not specific to Villanova University, we will be open tomorrow for classes and regular activities. We do not believe that cancelling normal activities in response to this unspecified information is warranted.

The University considers the safety of our students, faculty and staff of the utmost importance. Please be assured that we will continue to monitor the situation and make decisions consistent with our commitment to maintaining a safe living and learning environment.

It’s a strange feeling when something like this hits so close to home.

The rational part of me realizes that the odds of anything happening are quite small, and there’s probably more danger in my commute to campus than in teaching my classes.

But still, it’s not always easy to think rationally, as Dan Ariely has brilliantly demonstrated in his books Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality.

I can’t imagine what the frenzy must be like in the dorms across the Philly area. Since I started writing this blog a little over an hour ago, I have received another half dozen emails from students telling me that they will not be attending class tomorrow.

As of now, I plan to hold my classes, but I’m curious what my inbox will be like in the morning.

My admiration goes out to all the public safety officers across the region who will likely be working with a bit more diligence tomorrow, thank you for what you do.


2 thoughts on “The Threat of Terror Hits Close to Home

  1. So many thoughts going through my head: Is this exactly what “they” (whoever they are) wanted? To disrupt as many campuses, families and city agencies as possible?

    No one can know for sure, and I think I would have skipped class under these circumstances. My goodness, I can’t imagine all the thoughts and emotions you and your city must be having.

    I will be praying for you all throughout the day today. Praying for NO NEWS.


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