A caller claiming to have placed several bombs inside the Science Center disrupted Harvard's Conference on the Internet and Society for more than two hours Wednesday morning.
The threat arrived via two calls placed at approximately 8:50 a.m., according to University spokesperson Joseph Wrinn. Conference participants, students and other users of Science Center facilities were asked to leave the building at approximately 9:15 a.m.
At the time, many conference attendees were listening to a speech that keynote speaker Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, was delivering in Memorial Hall.
A number of prominent University officials, including President Neil L. Rudenstine, were attending the event, which was also being broadcast live in Science Center A.
Describing the situation as "non-alarmist," Rudenstine immediately announced the threat at Sanders Theatre and presented a modified program for the conference since three morning panels were scheduled to take place in the Science Center.
A police officer on-duty outside the Science Center that morning did not immediately admit the cause of the evacuation to those attempting to enter the building. Many of the evacuees, however, were told that there had been a bomb threat.
Vice President and General Counsel Margaret H. Marshall and Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs James H. Rowe III '73 entered the building at 9:35 a.m. By 9:45 a.m., Harvard Dining Services workers were allowed to reenter the building to move food items to tents outside the Science Center.
While staff members reassembled computer equipment that had been disconnected during the search, the Science Center remained closed to the general public until 11 a.m. as a precautionary measure.
All events scheduled to be held in the Science Center were moved to Sanders Theatre, Emerson Hall and other campus locations.
Jared Blumenfeld, a Cape Cod attorney attending the conference, said he thought Harvard handled the bomb threat well.
"It's annoying, but I'd rather be alerted," he said. "It was professionally done...[The speech] wasn't interesting enough to [make the evacuation] too upsetting."
The police have not yet apprehended the caller who, according to Wrinn, announced that "there were several bombs in the Science Center, [but] did not specify location and said they would explode."
"The caller did identify himself, but I don't wish to elaborate on that," Wrinn said.
Frank T. Pasquarello, public information officer for the Cambridge Police Department, said Thursday that the threat was still under investigation, and that investigators did not have any leads.
Cambridge police are working in cooperation with Harvard police on the case, Pasquarello said.
Pasquarello suggested that the case might be not be easily resolved, noting the difficulty of tracking anonymous telephone calls.
"It was a transferred call, [from Harvard's main exchange], so we don't have a copy of it," Pasquarello said. "These are very difficult cases to solve because it's usually just an anonymous call and that's the end of it," he added, noting that the call had not been traced.
Another mystery is the question of the motivation for the call. Harvard officials offered little explanation for the threat last week.
"Harvard is a very visible and well-known place," Wrinn said. "It's a natural attraction to this sort of act."
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