A group calling itself “The Threateners” has claimed responsibility for the University of Pittsburgh bomb threats, and says the threats will stop now that Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg met their demand to drop the $50,000 reward Pitt offered for information, the Pitt News reports.
The Pitt bomb threats, which started in February with a message scrawled on a wall of Pitt’s Chevron Science Center, have become so disruptive that some professors began to hold classes outdoors or offer them online and have led some students to stay off-campus.
An email forwarded on Friday to the Pitt News, the university’s student newspaper, detailed 'The Threateners' demand.
“This all began when you, Nordenberg, put out a $10,000 — then $50,000 — ‘reward’ (bounty) for some young kid who’d pranked the University.” And "Simply withdraw the 'reward,' and we will end our actions permanently."
Pitt officials appear to have agreed to the demands while avoiding correspondence with the group. The reward was pulled from the university’s website without comment.
Pitt spokesperson Robert Hill told The Pitt News that the university had decided “to avoid any form of negotiation with anonymous correspondents claiming responsibility for the criminal acts that have disrupted the lives of our students and of the broader community” after receiving the April 10 threat and advice from law enforcement and its attorneys.
He said that the university and law enforcement are still seeking arrests.
The Associated Press reported earlier in April that University of Pittsburgh police, the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service have a person of interest in the investigation. Authorities say some of the threats have been traced to or through computers in Austria.
Seamus Johnston, 22, and his wife Katherine Anne McCloskey, 55, were questioned earlier in April and subsequently served subpoenas to appear in front of a grand jury on Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Gazette reported.
The pair believes they are being unfairly targeted as suspects in the bomb threat case because Johnston was recently expelled from the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, a branch of the Pittsburgh university system located 70 miles east of the main campus, where the couple were formerly students at separate times.
Johnston told the the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he read news that 'The Threateners' have stopped their threats with guarded relief.
"It sounds too good to be true, but it does make me feel hopeful, against my better judgment."
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the university is urging faculty members to make arrangements for students to make up classes or exams missed because of evacuations. There are no plans to end the semester early.
The university, the Chronicle reports, will evacuate buildings and issue emergency alerts only after imminent bomb threats vetted by officials. Patricia E. Beeson, Pitt's provost and senior vice chancellor, announced the change in a letter on Sunday.
She said security will continue to check student ID cards and their bags at building entrances, and the five buildings used for exams will be swept for explosives every morning.
The university, located a few miles from downtown Pittsburgh, has about 3,800 full-time faculty members who serve 34,000 students.