(Photo credit: Sarah Kladler/Fourth Estate)
Three Mason students were arrested last week after “bomb making materials” were found in a dorm room in Jefferson Hall.
The arrests occurred last Wednesday, but it was not until this past Monday that the Mason community was informed of the incident.
“We understand your concerns and frustrations, given recent events both on campus and in the world around us. We want to assure you that campus safety remains our highest priority,” said Thomas Longo, interim Chief of Police, in an email sent out yesterday.
In an earlier email sent out by Longo, Mason police were alerted to the situation when flames were reported to be coming out of a window in Jefferson Hall. Upon examining the situation, police found sufficient cause to request a search warrant for possible drug paraphernalia, Longo said. The police later found drug paraphernalia as well as items consistent with the production of a dangerous device.
Longo said that of the three students arrested, two were charged with possession of drugs and alcohols, and one was charged with possession of bomb making materials.
“The students who were arrested are barred from campus property. They are interim evicted from student housing and on interim suspension from the university, pending the outcome of the legal process,” Longo said. “Because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and because of the ongoing nature of the investigation, we are not releasing the names of the students involved.”
Renell Wynn, vice president of Mason Communications and Marketing, added that the university followed protocol, despite waiting almost a week to inform the community.
“It is not the university’s policy to notify the campus community of an arrest on campus if there is no clear and present danger to the campus community,” Wynn said.
Aside from the campus-wide email sent out by Longo, the Mason Police Department declined to comment further on the situation.
A freshman in Presidents Park said in an email that residents of Jefferson had a meeting about the incident to address students’ concerns.
The students were told “that it is an ongoing investigation so they are not able to say much about it, but they did not alert students earlier because it was an isolated incident. They answered student’s questions to the best of their ability and said that student safety is their number one priority,” the student said.
However, the student added that they did not feel that the university waited too long to inform the Mason community.
“I do believe the school informed the students in a timely manner…If the students were in danger, I am confident the school would have notified them right away…I think the school made the right decision and refrained from causing panic on campus,” the freshman said.
Wynn also believes the matter was handled as efficiently as possible.
“I’d like to say that once the police department was made aware of the situation, the flames coming from a dorm room, that they acted and responded immediately. And we at the university are safer because of their quick response to the situation,” Wynn said.
Wynn said that the email that Housing and Residence Life sent out Tuesday expressed all the information the university has at the moment. She said that the investigation is still ongoing with details that cannot yet be released to the media, and that the investigation could go on for a while.
The Presidents Park freshman said that despite the potential bomb materials found, they still feel safe in their dorm and on campus.
“There have been a few situations on campus, but I believe that this school is a lot safer than other schools. I think people sometimes forget that the world can be a dangerous place and perhaps they do not take as many precautions as they should, but I feel that the school does its best to make its students as safe as possible,” the freshman said.
The student added that the police and staff at the meeting with the Jefferson Hall students said they can talk to their RA about increasing rounds or additionally, police walking through residence halls, if it would make them feel safer.