THE VIRGINIA TECH Web site features a picture of two students feeding a flock of ducks on the pristine campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains. But last Friday, a bomb threat had compelled the school to close Torgersen, Durham and Whittemore halls - and cancel classes.
University spokesman Larry Hincker said that a College of Engineering administrator called university police to report a letter containing a threat to blow up Torgersen Hall that evening, according to a report in planetblacksburg.com, a student-run news blog.
Hincker had been asked whether the bomb threat would affect the opinions of prospective Virginia Tech students, who began two weeks of campus visits yesterday.
"It certainly is not good news," Hincker was quoted as saying, " . . . although unfortunately these things are not that uncommon in high school . . . Every high school in this region goes through it with some degree of regularity, and many of the universities in this area. We have not had anything like this in many, many years."
The last bomb threat on campus was in 2001 when a suspicious device found in the Carol M. Newman Library proved to be a hoax. Before yesterday's shootings, Virginia Tech's 38 sworn police officers reported 20 aggravated assaults and 23 forcible sexual offenses - but no murders - in their 2003-2005 (the latest available) crime stats for the 25,000 students on the 2,600-acre campus.
Founded in 1872, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., has nationally ranked engineering and business programs, a 1,700-acre agricultural research farm, and a veterinary teaching hospital that annually treats 8,000 companion animals and 32,000 agricultural animals. Yesterday's shootings started in West Ambler Johnston Hall, known on campus as "West AJ," a coed dorm housing 895 people including the Wellness Environment for Living and Learning (WELL) community for students choosing an alcohol- and smoking-free lifestyle.
Norris Hall, where most of the killings took place, is across the campus from West AJ. Norris houses the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics.