One roommate said he was just making a joke about the Virginia Tech shootings.
But the other wasn’t laughing. And apparently, neither was Georgetown.
Now Reynold Urias (COL ’10), who calls himself Rei Sairu, says he’s been asked to leave campus by university officials.
On Tuesday night, Urias said, he and his father voluntarily loaded Urias’ things into a Buick Regal and began the drive back home to West Palm Beach, Fla.
So was it just a joke or a serious threat?
University officials declined to comment on the specifics of what happened, although spokeswoman Julie Bataille said that city and campus authorities investigated a potential threat last week. She added that the university was safe and no one was barred from campus.
All that’s left are the accounts of Urias and his now ex-roommate Ryan Hart (COL ’10).
They’ve never had the best of relationships, according to their Harbin neighbors.
Urias, an actor who has appeared in several on-campus performances, said that he was interviewed by MTV News about the Virginia Tech shootings last Tuesday, just a day after the incident. Under pressure because several family members had recently been sick and because he was going to Canada the next morning, the “joke” just flew out of his mouth after he returned to his dorm room, Urias said.
“It was something like, `You know, Ryan, if I didn’t have the morals and standards of everyone, I’d shoot everyone, but luckily I do have morals and standards and would never do something like that,'” Urias said, before adding that he explained to his roommate that he was just kidding.
But that’s not how Hart remembers it.
“He was on the phone with someone and said, `If I didn’t have a moral compass, I’d do what the Virginia Tech kid just did.'” Hart said Wednesday. “It just made me uncomfortable. He made a comment, not a joke.”
Hart said he called Georgetown’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services to report what Urias said. The next day, Urias was off to Canada.
In the meantime, the university changed the lock on their dorm, moved Hart to another room and deactivated Urias’ GOCard, Urias said.
Urias said he had his phone switched off during his trip. But when he switched it on Friday, he found at least 20 messages from Georgetown administrators.
“The first few messages were like, `We have to speak to you right away,'” Urias said.
On Sunday night, Georgetown paid for him to sleep at the arriott in Rosslyn, where his father came to support him. Urias said he was interviewed the next day for four hours by a psychiatrist and campus police.
Urias said he was told that he was not a threat to himself or others, but deans told him on Tuesday that it would be best to get off campus right away.
That night, he and his father began to drive home.
Urias is not the first student to be questioned for comments or writings made since the Virginia Tech shooting. In New York and Illinois, high school students have been arrested for potentially threatening writings. At the University of Colorado, police arrested a sophomore after classmates reported that he made threatening comments.
Experts say more incidents could crop up in the wake of Virginia Tech as universities balance students’ right to free expression with safety concerns.
“In some ways, this sort of thing is a matter of difficult judgment for university administrations,” said John Burkhardt, a clinical professor at the University of ichigan’s Center for Higher and Post-Secondary Education. “It’s safe to say that universities will pay very close attention to what people say in the future. But we have a very strong tradition within our society of respecting speech on college campuses, and I don’t think that’s fundamentally threatened.”
Urias said that he will still receive credit for the semester and has been told that he is welcome back in the fall.
“I’m just really surprised at the entire thing,” he said.
And Hart said that he feels “safe.”
“I’ve definitely received a ton of support from university officials and my friends and everything,” Hart said.