Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger announced BU will be implementing a new campus alert system in a Student Association Congress meeting on Monday evening, .
According to Ryan Yarosh, BU’s director of public relations, the Alertus Emergency Mass Notification System will work in conjunction with the current B-Alert system to electronically message students about potentially dangerous incidents on campus. The change comes after last week’s fatal stabbing in Windham Hall of Mountainview College. The first alert about the incident was sent at 11:14 p.m., roughly 45 minutes after Joao Souza, 19, was stabbed multiple times and the suspect, Michael Roque, 20, fled on foot.
The new system is currently being used at several schools across the country, including Ohio State University and Florida State University. It would consist of a button that dispatchers could push if a serious incident was reported to emergency services, ensuring the initial alert would be sent quickly. The first alert would only inform students that there was a situation on campus, but the existing B-Alert system would allow police and University officials to send out more detailed statements later, after they gather more information, according to Yarosh.
“The new alert enhancement will give very basic information alerting the community of a developing situation with information such as ‘Violent incident reported on campus. Move indoors immediately and await additional information,’ or something similar depending on the nature of the emergency,” Yarosh wrote in an email. “Once an initial assessment of the actual incident is made, more detailed instructions can be sent out, which is the current practice. This will be considered an ‘early alert’ and will serve as an initial advisory which will be followed by either an ‘all clear’ notification or, as stated, more specific information and instructions.”
At the meeting, Stenger acknowledged the new system may take extra training to implement. Nevertheless, he said he believes it is better to potentially have a false alarm than not send out an alert in a timely manner.
Stenger also discussed adding about 350 new cameras to residence halls in College-in-the-Woods and Hinman College. Because these communities are made up of older buildings, they currently lack the number of cameras found in other living communities around campus.
“[The cameras] will match the current configuration of the existing residence halls,” Yarosh wrote. “[There are] still some details and logistics to be worked out but I can assure everyone that cameras will not be placed where privacy might be a concern.”
Additionally, the University will be allocating more funding to mental health, peer education training and conflict resolution resources. Yarosh wrote Safe Ride will also see a boost in resources but didn’t provide additional details.
Arleigh Wasserman, a freshman majoring in human development, said she thinks the plan is a solid solution.
“I feel like that’s a smart plan,” Wasserman said. “I was outside during the stabbing and what if he ran in my direction, what would I do? Having a blanket statement is better than people being scared for half an hour.”
According to Talia Laserson, a senior majoring in human development, the new alert system will only be effective if the University strives to address its overall communication issues.
“I think the quicker alert system is definitely a nice step in terms of making the students feel more safe, but I don’t think it’s entirely a solution if they don’t follow it up quickly with details,” Laserson said. “If it’s not followed up, people will be a lot more scared.”
Malka Chu, a freshman majoring in mathematics, said she thought the alert was sent out in a timely manner following the stabbing, but was still happy to see improvements being made.
“I like the addition of the button,” Chu said. “I also like the cameras. I’m from the city, so I’m used to them being everywhere.”