Students react to threat to Augustana’s campus


Augustana Observer, file photo.

Charlie Roiland

Many Augustana students said Friday they feared for their safety following several threats made Thursday against the Augustana campus.

An Augustana alumni posted several potentially threatening TikToks, as well as allegedly left notes in campus buildings and around the Quad Cities. 

As students became more aware of the situation, they started to worry. Students were concerned that the person in question may have been targeting residence halls, specifically Westerlin and Erickson, where the majority of first and second-year students live.

At 3:56 pm, on Thursday Dec. 8, Augustana students received a community safety alert from Chief of Police Tom Phillis. The message stated that various notes, including content that was “sexualized, political and/or religious in nature,” had been anonymously left in several buildings on campus.

Preceding the community safety alert, many students became aware of a potential threat over various social media platforms including GroupMe group chats. First-year Paige Hoffman learned of the situation from her residence hall’s GroupMe while she was out on campus.

“I had no idea what was going on when I first saw the notification from GroupMe,” Hoffman said. “I looked around and I immediately noticed that it was 4 p.m. and no one was out on campus. It was really alarming to me.”

First-year Liz Wilbur, who lives off campus, immediately thought of her friends in the dorms.

“My immediate reaction was [asking] are my friends comfortable or do they need to come bunk with me at my apartment off campus,” Wilbur said.

Across the board, students were concerned about each other and their own safety, especially with a lack of detail from authorities. According to the Augustana College Parents Facebook page, many students and parents were calling the Rock Island Police Department along with the Augustana Public Safety Department in an attempt to gain more information.

“It was just all very confusingly handled,” Hoffman said. “The way that the information was being spread, I had no idea what was going on.”

The question of how classes would be handled Friday concerned some students with it being the last day before finals week. Sophomore Karen Rizzo was supposed to attend a field trip to the art museum, which did not end up happening due to the threat. A few professors made Friday classes online, but the majority of classes and activities were held as normal.

At 7:01 p.m. on Thursday Dec. 8, the campus community received an update to the community safety alert from Chief of Police Tom Phillis stating that there was no threat to the campus and that the matter was being dealt with. The email also stated that “due to the nature of this situation, this [was] the extent of the information that [could] be provided at this time.”

Although the campus community was assured that the threat had been dealt with, many students were still on edge Friday. With finals week just around the corner, stress and anxiety are already high on campus, and a threat to the community certainly adds to that. 

“I know a lot of people are dealing with really heightened anxiety right now,” Hoffman said. “It’s horrible, especially during finals when people have heightened anxiety anyways, and now it’s all compounded.”

On Friday Dec. 9 at 3:45 p.m., Vice President Wes Brooks sent a follow-up email about the incident. According to Brooks, “Augustana has issued a no-trespassing order to the subject and is increasing police presence on campus.” For students who feel unsafe on campus going into finals week, Brooks suggests talking with professors, “about the pros and cons of seeking an accommodation, like taking an incomplete in a course.”