The NYPD later deemed the threat a swatting incident, and the school cleared three impacted buildings -- Lerner Hall, Butler Hall and Carman Hall -- for occupancy.
Andy Costello, a former NYPD deputy inspector of police, said squatting has two meanings. One is when someone makes a fake threat to distract police before committing a crime somewhere else.
"But it's morphed into a term where people make fake bomb threats simultaneously at different locations, just to attract and move police resources to them," Costello said.
For a time, there were some tense moments Sunday, CBS2's Cory James reported.
Cole Fitzgibbons and his roommate, Christian Gomes, said they received an alarming text message that went out to Columbia students.
"At that point, we just took our stuff and we just dipped," Fitzgibbons said.
But Gomes said after they made it out he learned -- at the same time -- college friends of his were also evacuating at Cornell University upstate and Brown University in Rhode Island because of similar threats.
"And it happened at Yale a couple days ago. I don't know if it's like targeting the Ivys," Gomes said.
Nikolas Martin goes to Cornell, but was in New York City when his school sent an urgent evacuation text.
"It was shocking," Martin said. "I became worried. I called all of my friends that were on campus still, and tried to make sure that everybody was safe and tried to figure out what was happening."
The NYPD said the threat at Columbia started after someone called security at around 2:30 p.m. reporting multiple bombs on campus.
In a statement, a university spokesperson said, in part, "The University proceeded with an immediate evacuation of the buildings identified in the threat. Following an investigation, the threats were deemed not credible by the NYPD and the campus buildings have been cleared for occupancy. We thank those individuals affected for their patience and cooperation in evacuating."
It was a positive ending, but a scary situation for everyone at all campuses that were put on high alert.
"I thought it was a hoax at first, but then it seemed like it was a real thing," Fitzgibbons said.
Authorities said the threats made at Cornell and Brown were also not deemed credible.
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