Threats at Canton put Geneseo on alert

SUNY Canton went into lockdown on Oct. 23 after receiving reports of threats published on the social media app Yik Yak that indicated violence against the community. This is one of various cases that have occurred across college campuses nationwide, sparking concern over the use of the anonymous social media platform. Students and faculty at Canton began contacting university police and administration shortly after 12 a.m. on Oct. 23 when the first threat was discovered. The police immediately assembled with the Dean of Students, the Canton college president and the Canton communications department to determine whether this threat held any legitimacy.

“It was concluded that the threat had little credibility,” Canton senior media relations manager Gregory Kie said. “The campus was notified and we continued business as usual.”

Classes began normally on Oct. 23 until a second threat was received on Yik Yak at 11:45 a.m., which heightened the situation’s legitimacy and prompted an immediate lockdown across campus.

Although the investigation is ongoing, Canton sophomore Alexis Vazquez has been taken into custody as a suspect behind the first published threat. His trial is scheduled for Thursday Oct. 30.

Classes have since continued normally.

“The campus community really came together during this situation,” Kie said in a phone interview. “The help we received from university police and from Yik Yak organizers was truly remarkable.”

Geneseo University Police have also become aware of this issue and are prepared to combat and investigate similar threats if prevalent within Geneseo.

“We have an on-campus disaster planning task force,” Chief of Geneseo University Police Thomas Kilcullen said. “If a threat was received, this task force would work, convene and classify the severity of the situation.”

The disaster planning task force deals with issues on campus varying from inclement weather conditions and water distribution problems to dangers such as bomb threats. According to Kilcullen, they have been on alert for social media threats even before the incident at Canton. The statewide Commissioner Office for University Police has also furthered dialogue across SUNY campuses on the issue.

“It is important that if students see or hear something that they pass that information along,” Kilcullen said, echoing the United States Department of Homeland Security’s motto, ‘If you see something, say something.’

He encourages students to follow their gut instinct in these scenarios, reporting anything that causes any form of fear or concern. He also advises that those on social media be responsible and wary of ambiguous statements that could be subject to various interpretations.

“We have the ability to respond and treat these matters of legitimate threats,” Kilcullen said. “I just advise students to be cognitive and smart.”