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UH email attracts attention with its ‘nuclear’ subject line

A University of Hawaii spokesman is apologizing for “needless attention” from an email sent to faculty, staff and students systemwide Monday with the subject line, “In the event of a nuclear attack.”

The email was meant to inform the 10 UH campuses, including UH-Hilo, that in the unlikely event of a North Korea missile attack, the university will “defer to state and federal agencies,” UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl told the Tribune-Herald on Tuesday.

The email’s subject line quickly garnered the attention of national media and generated more than 60 online articles with sentences such as “trouble in paradise?” and “Now on offer at University of Hawaii, Nuclear War 101: How to Start Worrying and Fear the Bomb.”

Meisenzahl said the message was sent as a standard internal email and was not meant to attract national media coverage or cause fear. It was sent to more than 60,000 people systemwide.

Meisenzahl said he takes “full responsibility” for the subject line, which he called “absolutely regrettable and a mistake.”

“My job is to prevent negative, embarrassing headlines,” Meisenzahl said. “And today I did the complete opposite … the subject line was a mistake and my mistake alone. I apologize for causing any undo or unnecessary concern.”

Meisenzahl later sent a follow-up email to some UH leadership in which he apologized for the “needless attention I brought the university as a result of the systemwide email.”

He said he stands by the body of the email, however, which states that in the event of an attack, the 10 UH campuses will “rely on the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency siren system and follow agency instructions on ‘sheltering-in-place.’”

Despite the national attention, the email didn’t generate a large number of complaints from students or faculty, Meisenzahl said.

UH-Hilo spokesman Jerry Chang said Tuesday his office had not received any calls or emails about the message.

Email Kirsten Johnson at


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