Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

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What happened after the bomb threat? Here’s an update on the situation.

Carlos Rene Castro/The Collegian
A bomb threat was investigated at the student dorms around 12:18 p.m., with a partial evacuation of students from the dorms and the Dining Hall.

Twelve days later, the bomb threat that led to the evacuation of the campus dorms and Dining Hall is still causing reverberations.

The threat came on Sept. 28 at approximately 11:30 a.m. in the form of an email to the Fresno Police Department. The threat targeted the Fresno State residence halls, the University House (official home of the president) and the home of Professor Ida Jones.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team was on the premises with explosion-detection canines.

After an investigation, the threat was deemed not credible at 2:03 p.m. The announcement was made in a campuswide email by University Communications.

The threat was also emailed to media outlets and other campus departments, confirming it to be related to a social media post.

“Based on the language in the threat, we attributed this threat to be related to a social media post earlier in the week that was critical of a class assignment given by one of our professors,” said Lauren Nickerson, associate vice president for University Marketing and Communications.

Here’s what The Collegian knows:

Where did the threat come from?

The threat originated following a social media post on X, formerly known as Twitter, stirring up outrage over a nearly year-old complaint about a professor requiring students to declare their personal pronouns.

The Fresno State Police Department received a call from the Fresno Police Department informing the university about the threat, and the evacuation process began. Hundreds of students were told to evacuate the dorms and the Dining Hall.

Fresno State PD said the threat came from a specific social media post directed toward a specific professor, inspiring a doxxing effort.

What inspired the threat?

Libs of Tik Tok published a post on Sept. 27 with screenshots of RateMyProfessor comments about Professor Jones’ class.

The account is a social media page the Anti-Defamation League describes as “attempting to generate outrage and stoke anti-LGBTQ+ hostility by reposting selected out-of-context social media content created by LGBTQ+ people and liberals. The individuals, events and organizations targeted by the account are frequent targets of harassment, threats and violence.”

The post went viral with thousands of comments, shares and reposts, with the majority of the interactions harassing both Professor Jones and Fresno State.

What angle did other news outlets take on the subject?

KMPH (FOX 26) published an article that focused on the pronoun issue instead of the severity of the threat.

The university responded to KMPH stating that declaring pronouns is optional.

“As part of a class assignment, a professor required students to share information about themselves, including their preferred pronouns. We are confirming whether any student was negatively impacted for choosing not to share their pronouns. If this was the case, we will work with the impacted student(s), and the department chair to address this matter. Sharing preferred pronouns is optional and a personal choice, and we are following up with the faculty member per university policy and procedures,” the university told KMPH.

Instead of the university responding in defense of Professor Jones, they chose to emphasize that what Jones did was against university guidelines.

KMPH spoke with Roger Bonakdar, an attorney at Bonakdar Law Firm, and he said what the professor required of her students was a violation of university policy.

“So, what I have in front of me is a pretty clear violation of Fresno State’s policy. So, you have a professor… mandating that a student disclose their preferred pronouns, which is directly tied to their gender preference or gender ideology as a condition of receiving a full mark on a project,” Bonakdar told KMPH.

What does the California Faculty Association have to say about this?

John Beynon, president of the Fresno State faculty union, weighed in on the issue on Wednesday, Oct. 4. He called out both the university and local TV station KMPH for the report focusing on the pronoun issue, which emphasized a known culture-war flashpoint topic instead of the disruption and fear caused by the bomb threat itself.

“Following the threat, a local television station seized the opportunity to sensationalize this story with the headline ‘Fresno State professor was wrong to require pronouns, Fresno State doing damage control.’ The accompanying article absurdly shifts focus from those who fueled the social media hysteria that led to this awful threat to repeating accusations made against Dr. Jones on RateMyProfessor and Tik Tok. Fresno State took the bait and helped shift focus away from the actual threat to campus safety and onto one of our colleagues…” Beynon said in a faculty-wide email.

Beynon said the university reacted impulsively trying to do damage control instead of protecting Jones.

“The university needs to transform its impulse to overreact when its faculty or students or staff are smeared in the media — whether that be social media or traditional media outlets. This impulse to do ‘damage control’ and protect the university’s public image should be checked by more rational and principled responses to manufactured controversy,” he told The Collegian.

The Collegian reached out to KMPH and asked if there was a reason the station chose to focus on the pronoun concerns instead of the bomb threat repercussions and why it chose to disclose the partial addresses of Jiménez-Sandoval and Professor Jones.

Jessica Bellucci, a spokesperson for the station, emailed this to The Collegian:

“The statement from the station is they stand by their reporting.”

What is the current situation in the investigation?

Both the Fresno State Police Department and the Fresno Police Department conducted investigations.

“The campus responded in a timely manner by evacuating the residence halls, Home Management (child care), the Dining Hall and the University House,” Nickerson said.

The social media aspect of the situation continues to be investigated.

“Campus safety is our highest priority, and our Fresno State Police Department, with the assistance of other law encirclement agencies, is continuing to investigate who was responsible,” Nickerson said.

What are students saying about the situation?

Throughout the live investigation, the university updated students through Bulldog Alert. Some students are upset with the way the situation was handled.

Justyce Dixon, a second-year student at Fresno State, felt panicked and scared throughout the duration of the threat.

“At first I called my mom panicking thinking we were about to get shot up. Since I was close to the Dairy Unit I wasn’t anywhere near any of the evacuation points. So I was panicking thinking I have no clue what’s going on on campus,” Dixon said. “I didn’t learn it was a bomb threat until I had got home and I got a Canvas notification about it. I really think our school should have been more specific on what it was and told everyone to evacuate campus, not just the dorms.”

Savannah Ayala, a junior, said keeping the threat anonymous was not the right thing to do. She said if students knew what it was they could have been better prepared.

“I think they should have kept the students more aware rather than just saying ‘we are handling it’ because if things turned for the worst and the bomb was there and went off, students would have probably gotten killed,” Ayala said.

The university says it handled the situation with the best interest of the campus in mind. However, students with disabilities faced difficulties.

Sarah Porter, a hard of hearing student, said first responders were moving too quickly and not properly relaying information during the evacuation process.

“They are updating the students, but not slowing down and speaking to the hearing impaired. It took me going up to them, and they said they would give me a gift card as compensation,” Porter said.

What did the president say about the situation?

“The bomb threat last week was not only deeply disturbing but personally traumatic for my family and me. I was traveling out of the state and wasn’t home to protect and reassure my family during this incident. It was painful to be alienated from a place we call home. I can only imagine how traumatic this was for Professor Jones, our students who reside in the dorms and our entire campus community,” President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said.

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