One hour and 20 minutes.
That’s the amount of time University administrators and police forces across the state keep uttering when they estimate how long it took everyone to evacuate campus after three bombs allegedly set to detonate around 12:30 p.m. were reported to police.
Ignore the incredible volume of tweets, Facebook statuses and angry students who claim to have been caught in traffic for hours. If our administrators say it took an hour and 20 minutes to evacuate, what’s there to argue?
But the number is wrong, and Monday’s evacuation was a failure that should not be praised.
Some students reported creeping down campus roads after an hour in their cars, only to abandon their vehicles to start walking or give up entirely on leaving campus.
As late as 1:30 p.m., students were tweeting pictures of cars still in line on Highland Road and reflecting on the four hours they had spent in their cars with no luck getting anywhere.
How University officials and police formed such an egregiously incorrect estimate of the time it took for campus to be clear of students and traffic is unknown.
A simple online search shows just how wrong they are.
Even if campus would have been cleared in an hour, lives still would have been lost if William Bouvay Jr.’s threatening phone call had been true.
A poll on The Daily Reveille’s website shows that 56 percent of 265 students who answered said they were not able to leave campus after an hour of waiting. In Bouvay’s phone call, he said the bombs would have detonated in two hours, and students weren’t told to evacuate until an hour after he cried wolf.
But instead of taking responsibility, acknowledging their mistakes and using this as a lesson for the future, University officials seem to be ignoring the utter failure that could have cost tens of thousands lives on Monday. Instead, our leaders are endlessly patting each other’s expensive suit-covered backs.
To some degree, there’s no one to blame for the hellish gridlock. This is the first emergency of its kind the University has seen, and a flawless execution was impossible.
However, our University leaders and police officials will be at fault if they don’t wipe the satisfied grins off their faces and realize that Monday was a frightening experience for students and their families.
We were lucky that day, and while it should be acknowledged that police have done outstanding work to bring the man responsible for this crime to justice in fewer than two days, the madness that unfolded Monday is no cause for celebration.
“We have the opportunity every Saturday night in the fall to continually look at how we evacuate this campus after football games,” said Louisiana State Police Superintendent Michael Edmonson at Wednesday’s news conference. “I think we beat it on that particular day here this week with this call coming in.”
We cannot consider Monday a victory.
If the University cares about the students, faculty and staff of this campus, what some have called “our greatest assets,” our leaders will own up to this fault and start correcting it now, before the possibility of lost lives becomes reality.