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TXState Alert system possibly to change from opt-in to opt-out

Photo by: Sam King | Staff Photographer
A student uses his phone Feb. 18 during class.

Students, faculty and staff could receive text alerts without having to sign up for the notification system if the President’s Cabinet approves implementing a Student Government resolution.

Student Government senators passed a resolution recommending the TXState Alert system, an emergency notification that allows for alerts via text message, be changed from opt-in to opt-out at the April 11 meeting.

Currently, students, faculty and staff must register to receive text alerts. If members of the President’s Cabinet approve implementing the resolution, all community members will receive text alerts unless they decide to opt-out of the notification system.

Joseph Sikazwe, microbiology junior and author the resolution, said he has communicated with University Police Department officials and administration about the implementation.

“This is definitely an important issue on our campus and it’s something that needs to be addressed, so I think administration really took it seriously,” Sikazwe said. “I’m just glad to see the proper procedures are being taken to ensure that this resolution actually becomes something that will benefit the student body.”

Members of the President’s Cabinet would have to approve the change before the resolution is implemented, said Jake Palmer, emergency management coordinator for the university.

“There was discussion prior to Student Government getting involved about doing it just because it makes sense to do it that way,” Palmer said.

Officials had considered the change prior to the resolution and worked to make it a possibility, Palmer said.

“We’ve been looking at it before so we’ve done some work that would (help) once the decision is made,” Palmer said. “There’s been work done to get it done quicker if it’s approved. The big issue is just being able to set up that pathway for people to opt-out of it.”

University officials would send a notification to all students, faculty and staff to inform them of the change and how to opt-out if the resolution is implemented, Palmer said.

“I don’t know where it is at the President’s Cabinet level but once they say yes, it’s a relatively easy process to do it,” Palmer said.

If the change is approve by administration quickly, it possibly could be implemented before the start of the fall semester in August, Palmer said.

However, Vicki Brittain, assistant to the President, said Student Government’s resolution has not been brought to the President’s Cabinet.

The resolution is reviewed by Margarita Arellano, Dean of Students, and then sent to Joanne Smith, Vice President for Student Affairs, said Kathyrn Weiser, assistant dean of students.

After Smith reviews the resolution, it is sent to the President’s Cabinet for consideration and implementation. Weiser said Arellano has not yet sent the resolution to Smith.

Palmer said implementing the recommended change would benefit the community.

“There’s a lot of misconception out there that if you sign up for the notification system to receive these texts then you’ll get all kinds of texts at all kind of hours and that you’re number will be available to other people  or something like that,” Palmer said.

UPD officials only use text message alerts for emergency notifications and important messages, such as the cancellation of classes, Palmer said. Officials also send test alerts once a semester to ensure the system is functioning.

“If we did opt-out, where you had to do that action to get out of it, I think it’ll really help us be able to get information to people in the event of an emergency,” Palmer said. “Which is what we use it for, that’s the only point of having it. Nobody wants it until something’s actually happening.”

Email notifications are effective but students, faculty and staff are not constantly checking emails, Sikazwe said. The text alerts would be more efficient and prompt, he said.

“I thought the text alert system would be way more efficient in the sense that you’d be able to receive text alerts,” Sikazwe said. “Maybe if you haven’t checked your email all day and there’s an area you should be avoiding, you wouldn’t really be aware of that information.”

Changing the alert system to opt-out would allow for more prompt information, Sikazwe said.

“I really do think the email system is a really good system, I just thought text alert was something that was being underutilized,” Sikazwe said. “And more so a lot of people just didn’t know about it.”

Students are unaware of the text alerts, don’t make an effort to register for the alerts or don’t know how to register, Sikazwe said.

“It’s going to be a huge improvement and a great asset to the university if we get this pushed through,” Palmer said.