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October 15, 2001

Substance found in campus envelope turns out to be harmless

To: The UCSC Community
Fr: Chancellor Greenwood


Working in the Porter College mailroom this morning, an alert staff member of the college observed that an envelope contained granules of an undetermined substance. She reported that the envelope, which had arrived on campus via the U.S. Postal Service, had been addressed to a Porter student.

The employee immediately reported the incident, and our Police, Fire, and Environmental Health & Safety Offices responded quickly to the scene.

We have just learned that this incident resulted from an action intended as a joke between friends; a student has come forward and admitted to placing laundry detergent inside the envelope.

While we now know the staff member was not exposed to a dangerous substance, I would like you to know how seriously this incident was taken--and also what it took to respond to a threat of this nature:

  • The staff member was transported to the Student Health Center, where she was evaluated and released.

  • The matter was reported to the FBI office in San Francisco, and that office dispatched an agent to the scene.

  • We contacted other public health agencies to consult with them on appropriate health and safety procedures, including the Director of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control at UC San Francisco.

  • As a precaution, we shut down the Porter building's ventilation system and evacuated and cordoned off that area of the college.

  • We temporarily suspended operations of all student mail services.

  • The dining hall at Porter was closed temporarily. (Students were redirected to College Eight for dinner Monday night.)

I would like to commend the staff member for her swift action in this matter and I greatly appreciate the quick response of emergency staff personnel. Their collective response is an indication of just how prepared we are for such incidents.


M.R.C. Greenwood, Chancellor

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