Parts of campus were evacuated for more than an hour midafternoon Wednesday in response to a bomb threat at Leavey Library.
Although no explosive device was found and officials said the threat was a hoax, a Los Angeles Police Department media representative said the situation was still being investigated.
USC’s Department of Public Safety was notified at 12:35 p.m. by LAPD that a call had been made to the LAPD 911 call center, DPS Capt. David Carlisle said.
“The caller claimed that there was a suspicious package in Leavey Library, insinuating that it may be some kind of explosive device,” Carlisle said.
DPS and LAPD officers then responded to the scene to evacuate the building and wait for the bomb squad to arrive.
Carlisle later confirmed that LAPD had traced the origin of the call, and the Los Angeles Times reported that the call was made from the psychiatric ward of the USC University Hospital.
Students who were in Leavey at the time said an announcement was made over the library intercom, but many said the announcement was hard to hear. Many said they only knew something was going on when DPS officers began to evacuate the library.
“The authorities came in and said it was an emergency and everyone needed to get out,” said Rucha Sharma, a graduate student studying computer science. “We didn’t know what was happening. We weren’t scared, but since it’s exam time, the library was full. People on the top floors were moving fast to get out — some people started running.”
Grant Murphy, a freshman majoring in business administration, was sitting outside Leavey when DPS and LAPD showed up.
“They started pulling people out of the building, but I guess they weren’t getting people out fast enough,” Murphy said. “The fire alarms went off and people came out faster.”
Many students said they had no idea what was happening at the time.
“The security guard came, but no one told me anything,” said Kelly Li, a freshman majoring in biological sciences who works at the circulation desk of Leavey. “Five minutes later, my boss told me to get out of the library, so I did.”
Once outside, DPS officers sectioned off the area immediately in front of the library and evacuated the north side of McCarthy Quad. Although the majority of campus remained open, some areas were closed, including 34th Street between Watt Way and Figueroa Street. These closures meant that some students had to find alternate routes to campus.
“It’s a little silly that not everyone on campus knows,” said Cassie Nickols, a graduate student studying piano performance who had difficulty getting on campus, at the time. “I don’t know how fast [Trojan Alert] is supposed to be. They seem to be keeping people off campus, but there are students still on campus.
Though some students were annoyed by the disruptions caused by the threat — especially because it is the final week of classes — most said they think the precaution was necessary.
“This is more important than examinations. If there is a bomb scare, that has a higher priority than preparing for an exam,” said Ankit Maheshwari, a graduate student studying computer science. “You can always study later.”
Campus activity returned to normal shortly after 2 p.m., when the police tape was taken down and students and staff were allowed to return to the restricted areas.
Although nothing was found in the library, Carlisle said DPS treats every threat as legitimate in order to ensure the safety of the university.
“We have to take these threats seriously,” Carlisle said. “We proceed as if there really is an explosive device or other suspicious package in the library that could cause significant injury and damage to property. So, as disruptive as it is, it is a necessary precaution we must take.”
Nancy Martinez and Tiffanie Wu contributed to this report.