“Suspicious phone call” prompts evacuation

By Samuel Charles

Columbia’s Emergency Notification System sent alerts to students, faculty and staff informing them the 618 S. Michigan Avenue Building, 618 S. Michigan Ave., was evacuated and will be closed for the day, November 1. However, a later notification sent at 2:14 p.m. said the building will be re-opened at 5 p.m.

A reported “suspicious phone call” caused the evacuation, according to the college’s messages sent out by the alert system.

There was speculation, such as a possible gunman or bomb threat, among people outside the building about what was going on and what prompted the sudden evacuation.

Louise Dana, sophomore television major, was tutoring another student when the evacuation was ordered.

“I was working at the Learning Studio and suddenly we heard a [recording over the intercom] saying we had to stay inside because it was on lockdown,” Dana said. “Suddenly I was pushed outside through the back door in the alley.”

Dana said she overheard faculty members saying there was a person with a gun.

One Chicago Police Department SUV and cargo van were parked on Michigan Avenue in front of the building as Chicago police officers and Columbia security guards directed people away from the front of the building. They ordered pedestrians to remain under the scaffolding of the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave. and the South Campus Building, 624 S. Michigan Ave.

Columbia security guard Terry Collins said he overheard CPD officers discussing a canine search of the building, and at 2:22 p.m. a police dog was brought into the building.

Several faculty members and students were unable to bring their belongings with them when the evacuation was ordered and waited outside for over two hours. However, notifications sent by the college suggested people wait inside other buildings.

Martha Meegan, director of Campus Safety and Security, declined to comment about the incident at press time.

At 4:28 p.m. Columbia President Warrick L. Carter issued an e-mail statement reassuring students, faculty and staff that campus safety is always a main concern.

“While you may have been inconvenienced, we appreciate your understanding in helping us during events like these,” Carter said. “As always, the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff remains our top priority.”