Quinnipiac University, a medium-sized private university in Hamden, Conn., has had its fair share of hurdles to climb out of the degree of obscurity that many small-scale private schools with hard to pronounce names face.
The school's new medical and engineering schools, award-winning business program, and frequently cited Polling Institute have all been overshadowed by a former student's recent attempts to thwart a spring commencement ceremony by calling in two bomb threats to a graduation she pretended to be attending.
Danielle Shea made headlines this week after she called Quinnipiac University's public safety office from her own cell phone, while connected to the university's Wi-Fi network citing bomb threats.
Hamden police reported that Shea called the office saying, there is a bomb in the library. She made a second call less than 20 minutes later and said, Several bombs are on campus. You haven't cleared out graduation. That's not a good idea.
When I found out it was her, I was shocked... Good student, criminal justice major. I had no idea.
I first met Danielle four years ago during her freshman year at QU. She came off as energetic, charismatic, intelligent, and had a thick Boston accent. We shared mutual friends and kept a cordial relationship. I found out along with the rest of my classmates that her senior year was a farce. She feigned a life of academia to not only her parents, but to members of the Quinnipiac community.
According to news reports, Shea accepted thousands of dollars from her mother during the course of the 2013-14 academic year. Shea's mother reportedly believed that the money was going towards her daughter's education.
Officials say she made the calls because she panicked when she thought her parents would find out she wasn't graduating from Quinnipiac because she hadn't actually been enrolled in the school for the whole year.
What's also puzzling is how far she went in order to keep up the facade she created over the past few months.
Shea bought a graduation cap and gown, she attended Quinnipiac's Senior Week, a three-day collection of year-end festivities for graduating fourth year students. Shea updated her Facebook which donned a profile picture of the Boston Strong logo, used to commemorate those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings of 2012 with pictures of the campus; she went as far as updating a status about the change of venue for the commencement ceremony due to a security threat that she later on admitted to creating. It's almost as if she believed her own lie.
During what I thought was her senior year, I frequently ran into her around campus and at the local bars. I mostly saw her walking in and out of the school library, where we'd sometimes stop and say hello to each other. One of our stints of small talk was during finals week. She told me how she was studying for tests and preparing to head back to Massachusetts to take civil service exams. She said that she wanted to be a corrections officer.
Shea was charged with first degree threatening and falsely reporting an incident both of which are felony charges in Connecticut, punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
Shaun Hanlon, a recent Quinnipiac grad, knew Shea. They were neighbors during their sophomore year. He described Shea as amicable and well liked and that, for him, the whole chain of events doesn't add up. When I found out it was her, I was shocked, Hanlon said. Good student, criminal justice major. I had no idea. He said that he saw her at senior week. She told me how she thought it was so crazy that she was about to graduate.
Hanlon also noted that he was bothered that Shea inconvenienced so many people on such a significant day in many students' lives. "It was really selfish of her, Hanlon said. But I feel the worst for her parents.
Connecticut Threatening Laws & Penalties. (n.d.). Connecticut Threatening Laws. Retrieved May 22, 2014, from Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyer
2005 Connecticut Code - Sec. 53a-180. Falsely reporting an incident in the first degree: Class D felony.. (n.d.). Justia Law. Retrieved May 22, 2014, from Justia US Law
Glista, K., & Altimari, D. (2014, May 19). Judge Requires Bail For Woman Charged In Quinnipiac University Bomb Threats. The Courant.