Mississippi State University has determined that a female student falsely reported an attempted abduction to university police on Wednesday.
Mississippi State Dean of Students Thomas Bourgeois said in a university release that the student has withdrawn her account of the initial report to university police.
The student now faces possible criminal charges for filing a false report. The crime carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine upon conviction.
“Anytime anyone files a false report, it’s something that’s on the table,” Bourgeois said. “Anytime anyone makes a false report it, causes police to use unneeded resources. It brings a negative light to the institution and is very disappointing when it happens.”
The university first issued a Maroon Alert warning at 11:39 p.m. Wednesday, warning that a student reported an abduction attempt near Sessums Hall, an all-female residence hall. The university later said that at approximately 11 p.m., MSUPD responded to a report from the student, who claimed she was walking behind Sessums Hall when an unidentified black male jumped from between two cars and tried to grab her.
University Relations Director Sid Salter said the university would aggressively pursue charges in the matter.
“We take the reputation of Mississippi State as a place that’s safe for students and has a culture of safety very seriously,” he said. “When false reports are made, the university seeks to make sure those who engage in this behavior are held accountable. We’re not ready to discuss the finer points of it, but when someone makes a false report, the presumption should be that the university will pursue all reasonable avenues to make the people making claims of that nature accountable.”
Salter declined to comment on if the student had been arrested.
“We can’t comment on the criminal aspects,” he said. “In spite of the behavior, we still have a responsibility to protect the student’s rights and we’re going to do that.”
The student hoax was not the first that had been reported at Mississippi State. Madison Gillete, of Madison, was arrested in 2012 after falsely reporting an abduction.
“We had this happen before, and as in this incident, we did press the case for charges of filing a false report,” Salter said. “It’s very difficult to get the genie back in the bottle — once someone makes a claim of this type, the university’s reputation is sullied. We exhaust a significant amount of time, manpower, and the university’s budget to ensure student safety, and when someone makes a claim of this nature, all of that effort and hard work in terms of perception is challenged. We take this very seriously.”
Salter said that because the university had isolated incidents of false claims, it took steps to maintain the integrity of its student security systems. Though he would not comment on specifics, he said the university had measures in place, procedural and electronic, that made it difficult for those types of incidents to happen.
He also said the general culture around the university made it difficult for perpetrators to get away with that.
“The vast majority of our students share the fact that they want to protect the university’s image and mission,” he said. “Part of the reason it’s difficult to get away with (incidents like false reports) is because our students and staff value our reputation. People who do this find themselves in a lone wolf kind of situation very quickly.”