Campus alerts should be only for emergencies

By By Kelly O?Neill

By Kelly O?Neill

Last week, like many U students, I received a text message from the Campus Alert System stating that a severe thunderstorm was about to hit campus and that classes were not going to be cancelled. My thoughts upon reading this message were, A) why would someone tell me it was going to rain when I could clearly see outside my window that it was already raining? and B) why would someone think I was going to assume classes were cancelled just because of a little rain? I was under the impression that the role of the Campus Alert System was to “notify students, staff and faculty of unforeseen events and emergencies on campus,” but I couldn’t see how this incident would fit into either of these categories.

U safety officials recognized the need for a better information system in the aftermath of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, where a gunman on campus killed 33 people. Although no form of technology can prevent every emergency from occurring, the alert system is in place to inform students and aid them in taking the best course of action. “Overall (the response) has been very positive and people like knowing that it is available,” Les Chatelain, special assistant for Emergency Management, said.

Despite the obvious need for some kind of instant emergency alert system in an era of school shootings and terrorist attacks, many students are concerned that if the system is used for anything other than emergency situations, students will stop paying attention to the messages altogether.

“I think the messages are a good idea, but I’ve received so many that are irrelevant to me that I’ve started glancing over them and deleting them,” said Aubrey Meyer, a senior in psychology. Chatelain is also aware of this concern. “Questions as to what we should notify about and what we shouldn’t will be questioned and that will always be the case. Not everyone wants to know everything.”

Last week’s announcement regarding weather and classes being held as usual might have been deemed a nuisance by some, but U safety officials argue that there will certainly be a group of individuals who will benefit from the message. “While a person in a lab is saying “why did you bother me?’ people outside, like day care teachers and campus recreation classes, are saying “I’m glad we knew this was a hazardous one,'” Chatelain said.

But although U emergency officials should be commended for their dedication to campus safety, a line must be drawn as to what should and should not be deemed an emergency and the group benefiting from the message should be the majority, not the minority. When we are notified for every possible interruption on campus, the importance of the Campus Alert System diminishes and it looses its standing in the eyes of students. Students should be notified through the Campus Alert System for life-threatening situations and campus closures. Any other important messages can be communicated to students through other means such as the U’s website, e-mail, or the Campus Information System. If we do not reserve the Campus Alert System for emergency-only situations, the U will lose a vital safety resource that could potentially save lives in the future.

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