Senators share concerns about campus emergency alert systems

Senior News Reporter

A rise in campus crime has created the need to address the content of the university’s emergency alert messages, according to some faculty senators.

The Faculty Senate met with Ralph Meyer, University Police Department chief, and UPD Captain Rickey Lattie during their Feb. 12 meeting to discuss how students, faculty and staff can be reassured that the Texas State campus is safe.

Michel Conroy, Faculty Senate chair, said the Faculty Senate suggested sending out a notice reinforcing the safety of the campus when UPD sends alerts declaring the conclusion of an emergency. When so many alerts are sent, Conroy said it is important for the university to make the community feel safe.

“You are reading these alerts and thinking, ‘Is the crime rate going up?’” said Roselyn Morris, senator for the McCoy College of Business.

Senators also suggested sending out a message at the beginning of each semester highlighting that the university is safe. Meyer and Lattie agreed that disseminating positive messages after emergencies end and at the beginning of each semester are good ideas.

It is the students’ rights to know about emergencies, Meyer said. Alerts are “federally mandated” and need to go out as fast as possible, he said. The university is fined if an alert does not go out within 45 minutes, he said.
Meyer and Lattie updated the senators on current crime rates on campus.

Burglaries are the most common crime, Meyer said. In 2012, 41 burglaries occurred on campus, according to the Clery Crime Statistics report.

“One of our highest crimes is theft, which is understandable,” Lattie said. “You’re always going to have that with young people.”

Emergency alerts are sent out in 140 characters or less, and “timely warnings” are longer messages disseminated through University News Service, Lattie said.

“Timely warnings are more like trends,” Lattie said. “Emergency messages are what’s ‘hot’ right now. That’s the difference between them.”

The 140 character limit means a lot of information has to be put into very short sentences, and it has to be “an alert that makes sense,” Meyer said.

Many students stop reading an alert after the first few words, so the message has to get to the point quickly. Students, faculty and staff are instructed to go to the school website for more information on emergency situations, Meyer said.

In terms of being safe on a national level, the university is “comparable,” Lattie said.  

In regards to hate crimes, “this generation’s not that bad” about committing them, Lattie said. Very few hate crimes happen on campus, he said. Theft in the campus library has gone “way down” from what it was years ago, Lattie said.

“Overall, our crime statistics have gone down in the last few years or have stayed the same,” Lattie said.