Is UGA’s Emergency/Nonemergency Alert System Flawed?
On October 5, 2017, I was interrupted from my schoolwork by my father, who was watching 11Alive News.
“Naomi, don’t you go to the University of Georgia?” My father asked.
“Yeah...why?” I asked, feeling confused.
“I just caught the last part of this news story that said there was a rape that happened at your school.” My father said, with concern written on his face.
After those words came from my father’s mouth, I suddenly forgot about the schoolwork I had to complete and immediately went to my laptop to see if there was anything posted. I soon came across a news article on the 11Alive News website. According to 11Alive News, the female student was walking along a sidewalk outside of Moore-Rooker Hall between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. when an unknown man followed her. The unknown man forced the student to the ground and raped her in the loading area near Moore-Rooker Hall. Thankfully, the female student is alive, but we can only imagine the emotions she’s going through at this time.
11Alive News shared that “UGA says there were 17 reported cases of rape last year alone.” Learning this fact was truly upsetting for my mind to digest. The number should be zero and this is something that should be prevented from happening repeatedly.
While my father and I found this to be shocking, what we found to be even more unsettling was the fact that I (and probably many other students) were not made aware of this incident before it hit the news. There was no email or text message sent in reference to the incident and there was no “Be cautious of your surroundings” talk given by my professors when class was in session. As I walked back to my bedroom and tried to get my mind back focused on my schoolwork, I constantly questioned why I was out of the loop about this tragic event.
Before I transferred to UGA, I was a student at both Georgia Gwinnett College and the University of North Georgia (Gainesville campus), and I can honestly say that students were always informed about suspicious people seen on campus, weather closings, lane closures and anything that could threaten public health and safety. In addition to this, students were notified of the exact date and time that details were released by the school via email and text message. However, this is not to say that GGC and UNG’s alert system was perfect. There were times where students were notified days or a week after an incident occurred. Furthermore, the information was sometimes very vague, which left many students concerned for their safety.
UGA has their own form of mass communication called UGAAlert, but the issue with this alert system is that it’s only used to inform students of anything life-threatening (i.e., tornado warning, active shooter, etc.) or anything that could affect the health of students. As for non-emergencies, such as a lane closure, UGAAlert will not send out notifications about them. Instead, an emailing list, entitled Arch News, will take care of important announcements. The one issue with Arch News is that UGA uses this sparingly, which leaves me to wonder what type of information they may choose to not disclose to the UGA community. What I find to be amazing is that even though the act of informing students of a rape falls under the category of non-emergency, there was no article posted by Arch News. What about serial rapists? By neglecting to inform students, this issue becomes an emergency.
In my opinion, I feel that non-emergencies are just as important as actual emergencies. How can students make sure they are safe if they are unaware of active threats? Also, shouldn’t students be made aware of lane closures via email and text message? What if they are not near a computer when they are either driving somewhere or someone is coming to pick them up? Alerting students ahead of time can help them to plan wisely if they have to take alternative routes and relieve them of unnecessary headaches.
I understand that many colleges don’t want to scare or worry students in a way that affects their studies and puts them on the edge, but withholding this type of information actually does more harm than good. It can make students question a college’s motives and if the college community truly does care about the student’s well-being. If all the details about a case cannot be provided, students should at least be given some details so they know what to look out for and what to do if they happen to encounter certain situations. It truly disturbs me that I learned about this rape incident through a local news station rather than the campus where I’m receiving my education. College is already a stressful task for anyone to handle….the lack of details on campus news given only causes more anxiety whether one believes it or not.
I strongly feel that UGA needs to start sending emails and text messages to students when serious incidents, like rape, happen on campus instead of allowing local news stations to do it for them. There’s nothing wrong with local news stations reporting college news, but my point is that colleges should inform students first. I want the comfort of knowing that UGA cares for their students and as of right now, I have mixed feelings about it. This university has received excellent ratings for best education and student success. I want UGA to have good ratings when it comes to notifying students of emergency and non-emergency events. Since students check their student emails and text messages on a daily basis, this is the most effective way to reach out to students, rather than posting it somewhere a student most likely will forget to check due to school and other commitments they have. Lastly, there needs to be more security around campus to ensure that students are safe at all times. We can’t wait until another incident happens to do something….the time is now!
If you have made it this far in the article and you believe that it’s important for colleges to inform students of incidents occurring on campus, I ask you to please share this article with others on your social media sites and ask your followers to share this as well. This is a serious issue that needs to be placed in the spotlight and you sharing it will definitely help to make a difference and I would greatly appreciate your assistance.
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About the author:
Naomi Stamps is a senior at the University of Georgia, who is majoring in English. She enjoys writing stories, poems, and articles that all have thoughtful messages for any reader to benefit from. She looks forward to graduating soon and becoming a successful writer one day.