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The university said it sent an e-mail message to 80,000 students, faculty and staff at about 1:15 p.m. alerting everyone to the threat. That number of e-mails, the school said, took about 90 minutes to get to all recipients. Some students reported receiving the e-mail at 3 p.m. "That's an issue of concern for us over the long run," she said of the slow e-mail.
Also, each of the buildings has a radio system that emitted a tone and verbal alert that there was a threat and evacuation was necessary.
Dylan Bindman said he had been in a 200-student lecture class in the Science Classroom Building for about 15 minutes when a police officer came in and spoke to his teacher. The teacher told students to leave.
"The whole building was being evacuated," he said, adding that the university and police were being cautious.
Karlie Dulong was sitting in front of Coffman Union with two friends who were talking on their cell phones about the incident.
Dulong said she was headed into Smith against a "herd" of people, but didn't think much of it because there is always a class coming out of the building at that time. Then she heard police say to leave the Northrop Mall area between the auditorium and Coffman because of a bomb threat.
She worries that people will stop listening to such threats. "People will start to think, 'Oh, another bomb threat' and blow it off," she said.
The threat also disrupted a gathering that included U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. She and others were removed for about 45 minutes from a meeting room in the McNamara Alumni Center, where a transportation conference was being held. After the room was checked by a dog team, the conference resumed and the rest of the building was not evacuated.
"Obviously, this is a stressful time for our community," university President Robert Bruininks said in a statement late Wednesday. "The safety of our students, faculty and staff was our first priority and we appreciate your cooperation throughout the day."
In December, two offices at the university's Carlson School of Management were evacuated after a report of a suspected pipe bomb. The package was found to be harmless.
Staff writers Jim Foti and Bill McAuliffe and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Charley Bruce is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune. Chao Xiong 612-673-4391 firstname.lastname@example.org