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Threat of mass shooting wasn’t real. For many Cal Poly students, the fear was

Cal Poly students appeared calm Wednesday — if fewer in number — a day after an online rumor snowballed into a perceived threat of a mass shooting on campus.

Lines at the food trucks near Dexter Lawn were a little shorter, fourth-year student Xia “Berry” Ziwei said. She and Svea Love, a senior, were advertising an event their sorority, Alpha Omega Epsilon, is holding Saturday.

Love said her professor decided to cancel a Friday evening class as a result of the perceived threat.

“I wasn’t really worried about it, but it definitely made me think,” she said.

It started with a Tuesday night post on Instagram that said, “POLY STUDENTS!! There has been word of a school shooter, threatening to shoot the school tomorrow. Do whatever you got to do to not be harmed. I for one will not be taking my ass to school. Be safe.”

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Word spread quickly across Cal Poly through social media and group texts, though it was unclear at first whether “Poly students” applied to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly Pomona or — as some speculated — Long Beach Poly High School in Long Beach.

Police, both at Cal Poly and in Long Beach, investigated the post and determined that there was no credible threat. Around midnight, UPD issued a statement via PolyAlert saying that they were aware of the statement. UPD followed up with a statement early Wednesday morning that the campus would remain open and classes continue as scheduled.

Further investigation by UPD on Wednesday determined that the post referred to Long Beach, and the department was working with the Los Angeles School Police Department to locate sources, Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said.

Despite that, several students reported having classes either canceled or made optional.

Connor Morinini, a first-year student, said his morning English class was canceled. Ellis Fryer, also a first-year, got an email from a professor saying that attendance was not mandatory.

Lazier said the university does not track class cancellations and, outside of an emergency requiring classes to be canceled campus-wide, issues no guidance to professors on when to cancel class. The matter is left to professors’ discretion, he said.

The threat was on the mind of several students walking through the student union Wednesday.

Steelee Morgan, a first-year waiting in line for coffee, said his family wasn’t thrilled with his decision to go to school.

“I’ve got mid-terms this week, so I have to risk it,” he said. “It would be nice to stay in my dorm, but priorities.”

Eireann O’Grady, a first-year gathering anti-fracking petition signatures in the union along with fellow first-year Rob Moore, said she was initially scared when she heard about the threat, but after reading more she felt reassured and comfortable coming to school. She said social media appeared to help people stay on top of a fluid situation.

Moore said he did some research of his own after hearing about the alleged threat.

“I looked up YouTube videos on how not to get shot,” he said.

Fryer, who was eating lunch on the grass in front of the union, said she tried not to let the rumor affect her. Her friend, first-year Audrey MacDonald, said the rumor “made me a little nervous about going to my bigger classes.”

The two both said the rumor added new weight to a conversation on mass shootings so violently re-started Feb. 14, when 17 were killed and 15 injured in an attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Kyle Schneider, a senior, said his response when he got the PolyAlert was a desire to fight back.

“I said, ‘I can’t wait to meet him,’ ” Schneider said, adding that it is important “to fight back” when life is threatened.

Schneider was among a group of students on Dexter Lawn on Wednesday promoting a newly launched Libertarian campus club, Turning Point USA. He said he wants to see Cal Poly start a conversation about the right response to mass shootings.

“I feel like we need to come together as students. ... It’s our campus, it’s our community, it’s our college,” he said.

Schneider said that he is torn when it comes to the subject of campus shootings.

“It’s becoming less shocking,” he said. “Anytime I come on campus, it’s on my mind.”

Kayla Missman: 805-781-7965

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7934, @andrewsheeler

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