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Newscast 1.18.24: As Iowa Legislature considers anti-swatting bill, fake school bombing call reported in Siouxland; Briar Cliff looking for new university president; Frostbite cases rise as temps drop

Briar Cliff University President Patrick J. Schulte at his inauguration  on the Sioux City campus, on September, 15, 2023
Briar Cliff University President Patrick J. Schulte at his inaugation September, 15, 2023

As the 2024 spring semester gets into full swing, Briar Cliff University in Sioux City could perhaps have a third college president in three years.

Earlier this month, university officials announced appointing an interim president after their prior chief executive resigned. According to the university, Patrick Schulte resigned to begin a new leadership position with Donnelly College in Kansas City Missouri.

Schulte joined BCU in June 2021 as the Vice President of Finance. He then served as interim president starting in July 2022, after the departure of President Rachelle Keck, before he was named the 12th president of BCU in March 2023.

Briar Cliff Board of Trustees Chairman Steve Stouffer said the Schulte departure was unexpected, but told the university community that he has confidence in the remaining leadership team and employees.

The BCU board appointed Steve Freeman, a 1969 Briar Cliff graduate and longtime board chairman, as the interim president. The university plans to begin a search for presidential candidates in the near future.

College presidential searches often take one year, so it is unclear if Briar Cliff could have a new leader by the time the 2024-25 school year begins in August.

Previous to Schulte, Rachelle Keck was BCU president from 2018 to 2022, and she succeeded Hiram Shirvani, who held the post for roughly one year.

Additionally, a bill that attempts to crack down on people who make fake calls to police on attacks such as school shootings has advanced this week in the Iowa Legislature.

So-called swatting would be an offense for which people could receive felony charges under the bill moving in the Iowa House chamber. The Iowa Department of Public Safety recommends the bill to push back against people who call in false reports such as bomb threats or school shooters.

An official with that agency told a House Public Safety Subcommittee swatting is a growing problem, as there were four such calls in 2021, but 39 last year. The subcommittee on Wednesday advanced the bill, which upgrades swatting from a misdemeanor to felony charge.

Coincidentally, also on Wednesday, a Siouxland school was placed on lockdown after a false bomb threat came via a phone call.

The Denison (Iowa) Police Department in a press release said Denison High School received a call from an unknown male, who said he was traveling to the school with plans to “blow up the whole school.”

Additionally, Siouxland is under a Winter Weather Advisory through Friday morning, with the potential for a few inches of snow, then another deep freeze will envelop the area.

The morning temperature on Saturday morning could reach 20 degrees below zero, and last weekend the area was slugged with several days of a windchill advisory.

As those temperatures plummeted, Iowa health care providers say they’re seeing an increase in cases of frostbite in the state.

Jolyn Schneider is the nurse manager of University of Iowa Burn Treatment Center, and she said they’ve received dozens of calls about frostbite in the past few days.

Body parts that are far from the heart, like fingers, toes and noses are particularly vulnerable to frostbite, so Schneider said Iowans need to take precautions to keep their fingers and toes covered while outdoors.