SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: September 13, 2022

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Northeastern University

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 13, 2022, a Northeastern University employee placed a 911 call to report that he had been injured after opening a package inside a campus building, and that the package had contained a threatening letter. In response to the 911 call, NU canceled classes in six buildings and evacuated a large part of the campus. Investigators later determined that the call and the claim about the letter bomb was a hoax.

Jason Duhaime, the technology manager and director of the school’s Immersive Media Lab, reported that he had been injured by “very sharp” objects that flew out of the package and that the package contained an anonymous “violent note” against the lab. The note reportedly accused the lab of working with the US government and Mark Zuckerburg.

On September 14, a forensic analysis of one of the computers seized from Duhaime’s office found an electronic copy of the letter that had been created on, stored in, and printed from the computer. Law enforcement also found that the alleged package was undamaged and did not show any evidence of having come in contact with an explosive. On October 4, Duhaime was arrested and charged with staging a hoax explosion. NU reported that Duhaime is no longer employed at the university.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about fabricated threats aimed at intimidating members of the higher education community and disrupting classes and campus life. Such actions undermine academic freedom and university autonomy. Federal, state, and university authorities should take reasonable steps to respond to and prevent such attacks, including by investigating and holding perpetrators accountable.