Threat level 5: resigned atmosphere, despite maddening rumours

Flags at the Administrative Building in De Uithof are half-masted. Photo DUB

As with most public buildings, the University's flags hung at half-mast on Tuesday. UU also expressed its condolences to the victims of the shooting incident in the tram in Kanaleneiland and to their families, as can be read in the messages on the intranet and on the student site.

The University says it does not yet know whether, among the three dead and five injured that were to be regretted on 24 Oktoberplein, there are students or staff members of the UU. “The University does not know more about the identity of the victims than that what can be read in the regular media,” the reports say. Anyone who feels the need to talk as a result of the shooting can request a meeting with his study adviser or with a social worker. The University has since withdrawn all safety measures. 

Screenshots and videos
And so the University returns as best possible to a normal situation after a day in which nothing went as expected. Students and staff were locked up in the various buildings at De Uithof and the city centre from half past twelve in the afternoon. The University then decided to implement its crisis protocol. Emergency responders were called in. Students, staff and guests from the University were advised to stay inside. There were already rumours on social media that the shooter(s) would be en route to De Uithof. 

Videos were also shared of armed policemen allegedly at De Uithof. “People were making each other crazy with all kinds of rumours,” Leonie, a student of Educational Science, said.

The University did its best to inform students and staff via the website, social media, emails and the student app MyUU. Due to technical problems, a first push message via MyUU reached students much later than planned. Partly because of this, some uncertainty arose. The first e-mail from chairman of the Executive Board Anton Pijpers arrived at half past two.

Leonie: “The e-mail stated that exams, lectures and promotions were still held for people who were present in the building. Which didn't seem very practical to me when only half of the students were present. In practice, it turned out that the approach differed per study programme. My working group was quickly cancelled. I saw a full lecture hall in the Ruppert building, whereas a film was being shown in a room in the Educatorium. ”

Some employees complained, on social media as well, that they had to hear from the national news that they were no longer allowed to enter or leave their building. "We discovered it because someone from outside texted, he had read it on the NOS site... You should think this could be handled differently...", someone tweeted.

A UU press spokesperson understands the call for faster communication and also believes there are areas for improvement after Monday: “Apart from that, we are always considering whether we want to inform quickly and say little or wait so that we can provide better information. That remains an area of tension.”

Emotional parents
In the meantime, the info line’s phone, the UU call center, was extremely busy. Parents asked - often emotionally - for more information about the situation. Remarkably often it concerned relatives of international students. Callers had to be reassured based on limited information. Dutch parents wanted to pick up their son or daughter themselves. That was discouraged, also because De Uithof had become more difficult to reach. Later, phone calls came from students who were initially not admitted to university buildings by emergency responders.

On Facebook a mother responds to a post from the UU: “I understand that you cannot oblige your students to stay, but as a mother, I think it would be nice if you insist that they have to stay in until further advice from the police and mayor! When my son tells me that they can leave at their ‘own risk’, I feel sick. Fortunately he asked my permission if he could go home (no way!)”

Calmly continue studying in the library
But in general, the day went without much ado. The atmosphere in most buildings was tense, but quiet. In the Educatorium, students gathered around a TV screen on which the latest developments could be followed. In general, students listened carefully to the instructions of the in-house emergency services and also showed a lot of understanding, DUB was told.

Student Education Science Leonie: “I saw that some people around me were really scared of the messages and did not dare to go outside anymore, while other students continued to calmly study in the library.”

A History student in the University Library in the city center found her fellow students “resigned but at the same time curious". "As if you were going on a school trip. "

Walk back
When the municipality withdrew its advice to stay indoors just after four o'clock, the University also said that UU people could go home. The UU insisted on doing this calmly. The traffic jams that followed in De Uithof were busy, but not much busier than usual. Because public transport was not yet running, students and staff were picked up by relatives or acquaintances. Some were forced to walk back to the city or the station.

A press conference from the municipality announced on Monday evening that the suspect of the shooting had been arrested. On Tuesday morning the police announced that so far nothing has emerged regarding a connection between the main suspect and victims. This is in contrast to reports that suggested a family member was the target of the shooting incident.

The three fatalities are a 19-year-old woman and two men aged 28 and 49 years. The three seriously injured are two women aged 20 and 21 and a man aged 74. The motive of the perpetrator remains unclear for the time being.