Eastern officials channeled the flow of all information regarding a security threat on campus through its media relations department on Tuesday. Emails obtained by The Daily Eastern News show that all information released to the public was to come from Eastern’s media relations office, on a day where many in the community felt not enough information was being released.
The full email transcript obtained can be found here: https://www.dailyeasternnews.com/2019/10/17/full-email-transcripts-from-tuesdays-security-threat/
Eastern was notified about the “unspecified” and “vague” threat Tuesday morning, after a mental health crisis hotline notified 911 about a suspicious caller.
At 9:48 a.m. Tuesday morning, Eastern released a message via the school’s “Alert EIU” notification system, which notified faculty and students that a “security threat to campus” had been received and that police were “investigating to determine the credibility of the threat.”
Tuesday’s notification sparked complaints from the public that the initial alert was too vague and more information was needed and wanted.
Eastern administrators determined that all information released or not released to the public that day would come from one source, Eastern’s media relations department. The emails obtained by The Daily Eastern News illustrate the communications that occurred internally between Eastern’s administrators on Tuesday.
At 11:35 a.m. Tuesday, a caller phoned 911 and alerted authorities that they heard someone in Douglas Hall say they had a gun. This prompted a quick response from law enforcement who entered the building and determined no threat existed.
The incident in Douglas Hall, however, only further increased the public’s perpetuation of incorrect information, with some on social media claiming untrue reports of an active shooter on campus and others still looking for answers to questions.
At 10:24 a.m., Josh Reinhart, Eastern’s public information coordinator, notified Eastern administrators via email that he had received media inquiries from WCIA, The Daily Eastern News and WEIU. Included in the email was Eastern President David Glassman, University Police Chief Kent Martin, four of Eastern’s vice presidents and executive assistant Judith Gorrell.
Reinhart included the questions the media asked in their inquiries, his responses and the link to a WCIA article with the note “We’re out there here but it’s all I can find so far.”
Glassman, Martin and all four of Eastern’s vice presidents were not made available for comment on Tuesday, and all media inquiries were directed to Reinhart.
Reinhart sent another email to the group at 10:43 a.m. after receiving another phone call from WEIU, indicating that he did not feel a press conference to address the security threat was needed at the time.
Reinhart wrote in the email: “I shared that my inclination at this time that no press conference would be needed, but certainly that could change. More likely, we will issue an official statement once we have the information we need from authorities”
Reinhart later indicated again in the same email that more information would be released when they had more word from authorities.
Glassman replied to the Reinhart email at 10:51 a.m. saying, “I agree.”
Reinhart commented Thursday about the decision not to hold a press conference Tuesday morning.
“Typically a press conference from a public relations standpoint, a press conference is typically convened to … in public relations practices it is more standard to call a press conference when you’re distributing a fair amount of new information and again at the time,” Reinhart said. “Given what I knew about the situation, it did not feel as though we would have much more information to share. Again, that was my perspective at the time in recalling that email, recalling what I said I also indicated that might change, but given what I knew at the time, I didn’t think that a press conference was necessary.”
Eastern released a statement at 12:28 p.m. saying that the threat to campus was deemed no longer credible by authorities but did not refer to the incident in Douglas Hall.
Reinhart sent another email to the group at 12:50 p.m. in which he notified them he had completed a draft of Glassman’s message on the situation, which he would put on Eastern’s website and direct media members to.
Later in that email Reinhart wrote:
“I took the line out about contacting EIU PD for more information about the threat or the investigation. I want this message to be the endpoint,” Reinhart wrote. “Complicating this matter of course, is the separate Douglas Hall incident– which is blurring lines a bit for those looking in.”
Glassman replied to the email, “Looks good to me but do others have any edits or other thoughts/suggestions to consider?”
At 2:09 p.m., Reinhart received an email from Rob Stroud of the Journal-Gazette Times-Courier, which contained follow-up questions to the statement released by Glassman.
Reinhart asked Martin and Lynette Drake, Eastern’s vice president of student affairs, for input in responses to Stroud.
“Fair answers, Kent and Lynette? Input appreciated,” Reinhart wrote. “These replies should come from me to limit sources.”
Both UPD and Drake referred all media requests to Reinhart on Tuesday.
JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]