Task force: U-Mass. could not have foreseen alleged bomber’s actions

August 15, 2013

Officials at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth responded appropriately in the days following the Boston Marathon bombing after they learned one of the school’s students was a suspect in the attack, according to a task-force report issued Thursday.

The task force found there was nothing school officials could have done to prevent the tragedy. But the independent group suggested several security and system improvements for the university’s campus, which is about 60 miles south of Boston.

Accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was an undergraduate student at the Dartmouth school and spent several days on campus after the April bombing — working out at the gym, sleeping in his dorm room and attending parties — as law enforcement conducted an intense manhunt for the then-unidentified bombers.

Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to setting off two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15. Officials say he and his older brother, Tamerlan, plotted and carried out the attack, which killed three and injured hundreds. Tamerlan died as police closed in on the brothers days after the bombing.

“The Task Force did not find any indication that UMass Dartmouth could have foreseen the alleged actions of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, nor did the Task Force find any indication that students at UMass Dartmouth were in danger prior to, or after, the bombing of the Boston Marathon,” according to the report.

The three-person task force — the presidents from Montana State University, the University of Connecticut and the Police Foundation in the District — recommended improvements in three key areas:

●Emergency planning: Hire a full-time emergency management specialist and continue to upgrade the university’s surveillance-camera system.

●“Student in Good Standing” policies: Enact tighter academic standards to dismiss students with poor academic records sooner and prevent students with unpaid university bills of at least $500 from registering for courses. Tsarnaev owed the university more than $20,000 while he was a student.

●International student immigration policies: Centralize information about and handling of international students instead of allowing different departments to do the work.

The acts of people who commit atrocious deeds “cannot be attributed to the university they attended or the communities they came from,” the Dartmouth campus’s chancellor, Divina Grossman, said in a video statement released with the task force’s report. “Certain deeds are so outside the bounds of normal human behavior as to exist in their own realm of darkness in a place that obscures logical explanation or comprehension.”

Lynh Bui is a Prince George's County public safety reporter and former Montgomery County education reporter.
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