Letter from President Charles W. Steger on recent threatening e-mails and postings
March 17, 2010
The following is an open letter to the university community from Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger.
To the university community,
This notice follows up on the police notice sent March 10 and to apprise of the status of the You Tube postings and threatening e-mails sent to various members of the university community. The individual responsible has continued to send e-mails to students and university employees over the last several days.
University police have been following all leads and continue to believe these threats emanate from Italy. The police continue to work with Virginia State Police investigators and the FBI. The FBI is our liaison with Italian authorities. While we take all threats seriously, these law enforcement authorities do not believe these communications represent a credible threat.
The e-mails appeared to have been sent from either an AOL account or from fictitious @vt.edu e-mail addresses. Police emphasize that the latter are NOT actual Virginia Tech e-mail addresses. Police are confident that the e-mails are coming from the same source as the YouTube postings and that all of those messages are originating from Italy.
The individual responsible has made threats about March 18 as a day of possible action when he might commit harm. Given all that this university has endured, I can understand how this can be very upsetting to the university community. We know that e-mail notes and Facebook postings are being circulated and many are making their own conclusions not based on factual information. People are linking local events, such as alleged break-ins, with these threatening posts and e-mails, which are not borne out by the facts. All the indicators reviewed by law enforcement do not point to an immediate threat.
The university will be open as normal tomorrow. There has been and will continue to be enhanced police presence throughout the university. Because of the elevated concern expressed by the university community, I believe that an overabundance of caution is appropriate.
We ask that if you are the target of threatening e-mail correspondence or receive threatening postings on Facebook or YouTube, please report it immediately to Virginia Tech Police at 231-6411 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you observe suspicious activity on campus, report it to Virginia Tech Police at (540) 231-6411 or if in town, contact Blacksburg Police at (540) 961-1150. We suggest that you share this note with family and friends.
Virginia Tech Police recommend the following:
- If you receive any suspicious or threatening e-mail or social network posts, please contact Virginia Tech Police and save any electronic files.
- Do not respond to any such e-mails.
- Avoid visiting or commenting on sites that contain threatening and harassing material.
- Be cautious in forwarding e-mails to friends or colleagues unless the information is factually correct.
- If you observe behaviors that cause you concern for your safety, or that of the community, contact the Virginia Tech Police.
- Use caution in posting personal information on profiles or social-networking sites.
I know that all this can and will be upsetting to our community. Report your concerns, but don’t be misled by speculative information or rumors. Remember that we have a number of offices throughout the university to support students, faculty, and staff. Remember that we are a community that cares for each other and I ask that you continue to support each other.
Charles W. Steger