April Fools’ Day is a time to be on the lookout for mischievous friends pulling harmless pranks. But for Bursley Hall residents, it was a time to be on the lookout for another place to live – or so they thought.

An e-mail sent to Bursley residents at about 3:10 a.m. yesterday notified them that a “severe” asbestos problem in the dorm would force officials to close it for repairs at the end of this week. The message, sent from Hall Director Carolyn Burns’ e-mail address, had a subject line of “Urgent Housing Information.”

In an e-mail interview, University Housing spokesman Peter Logan denied that Burns sent the message and called it “deliberately false.”

“It was nothing more than an April Fool prank” meant to confuse residents about “a problem that does not exist,” Logan said.

The e-mail advised residents to keep their windows open and wear protective masks to avoid exposure to the asbestos. The message said “90% of the (dorm’s) pipes were found to contain asbestos on the outside, and 50% on the inside as well.”

Around 3:50 a.m., less than an hour after the first message was sent, students received a second message from Burns’ address, telling residents not to be alarmed, and that the earlier messages were a “lame” joke.

Burns declined comment for this story.

The follow-up message said that nothing was wrong with Bursley, “At least not anything the e-mail said,” the message read.

Logan said that “the identity of the sender of both e-mails is false” and that Burns didn’t send either message.

Because the first two e-mails were sent within an hour of each other, most residents didn’t fall victim to the joke. Bursley resident Brianna Iddings, an LSA freshman, said she could tell the e-mails sent from Burns’s address weren’t genuine.

“It didn’t seem like something Carolyn would write,” Iddings said. “The e-mails she usually sends out seem more formal.”

Burns eventually sent a message to residents around 11 a.m. yesterday, explaining that the earlier e-mails were simply a prank and that “there was nothing to worry about.” In her message to the residents, she said the prank might have been the result of a virus.

Logan said that while the e-mails may seem harmless, “the prank represents a potential compromise of e-mail protocols and security and perhaps, University policy.” He said the Housing Information Technology Office had been asked to investigate the identity of the sender so that appropriate actions could be taken.

LSA freshman Jonathan Hurwitz said he was confused after he read the first e-mail.

“I wouldn’t expect somebody with such a position in the dorm to play such an immature joke,” Hurwitz said.

Daily Staff Reporter Philip Guichelaar contributed to this report.

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