On Friday morning, a dormitory hall’s publicity stunt bombed.
The Cambridge Bomb Squad responded to a heavy concrete block painted to look like a cartoon bomb, advertising the annual Dance Till You Drop party held by the Burton Third Bombers.
On Friday morning, students watched as bomb squad members sent a robot to inspect the concrete block, which was painted black with “DTYD” written in orange letters. A man in a protective suit inspected the block up close. A small explosive charge was detonated near the block.
Burton-Conner will be billed by the city for the costs of the multi-hour effort, residents were told by Barbara A. Baker, Senior Associate Dean for Students. Those costs are not yet clear.
The bomb squad was called in by the Cambridge Fire Department, who were called by MIT police at about 5 a.m. Friday to ensure that the concrete block was not dangerous.
Eventually, bomb squad personnel chained the block to a fire truck and used a winch to pull the block out of the ground. After the block was flipped over, the bomb squad declared an all-clear, and Facilities employees with a forklift removed the block.
The “bomb” turned out to be a heavy concrete hemisphere made to look like it was buried in the ground, with a concrete “fuse” glued on top and with metal spikes attached to the bottom that made it hard to remove from the ground.
An MIT police sergeant was told the bomb was fake at about 3 a.m. by Eric D. Schmiedl ’09, who photographed it, Schmiedl said. (Schmiedl is also a Tech staff photographer.)
Noah S. Jessop ’09, the outgoing Undergraduate Association President, witnessed the bomb squad in action and saw the squad when they eventually realized the “bomb” was a just a block of concrete. After the block was flipped, a bomb technician wearing a blast-resistant suit took off his suit as others posed for photos with the block.
In a written statement, residents of Burton Third apologized for the incident and said that the block was a hack meant to advertise the evening’s party.
“We understand that our actions have resulted in significant havoc for the Spring Weekend Committee, MIT Police, and community of Cambridge, and we regret wholly our failure to anticipate such an outcome,” they said in the statement. “We did not intend to convey any threat or danger to the community. We pledge our full cooperation to the MIT police and administration to address any concerns,” they said in the statement, available online at http://tech.mit.edu/V129/N21/bombsquad-statement.html.
The event was a “big misunderstanding,” said Burton-Conner housemaster Merritt Roe Smith. Objects that look like bombs are part of “very sensitive issues, and I understand that.” But, he said, if people were to “pay a little closer attention to student culture,” there might be fewer misunderstandings like today’s event.
Charles Lin G, a Tech senior editor, said he was disappointed that the bomb squad had been called in hours after MIT Police were told that the concrete block was a harmless student prank.
“I’m just mad that the police knew it was a hack. The police knew it was a hack and ended up calling in a bomb squad?”, said Lin, who is also a Graduate Resident Tutor for Burton Third. Lin said he was speaking personally and not on behalf of the dormitory.
The Cambridge Bomb Squad is led by a City of Cambridge Police Department lieutenant and has four part-time technicians on staff, according to the department’s website. The squad’s commanding officer, lieutenant Stephen Ahern, was not immediately available for comment.
The party itself, scheduled to start at 9 p.m. tonight, is still on.
An earlier version of this article said that Undergraduate Association President Noah S. Jessop ’09 saw a bomb technician posing for photos with a cherry-bomb-shaped concrete block. Actually, Jessop saw others posing for photos with the block while the technician removed his blast-resistant suit, after the Cambridge bomb squad had concluded that the concrete was not a bomb.