Binghamton University has numerous ways of sending information to students — whether via text, email or phone, those methods of communication should cover all the bases.
However, in the wake of multiple incidents that occurred both on and off campus last semester, the University could have done a better job notifying students. The Editorial Board believes that the University’s methods of notifying students of potentially dangerous situations can be improved.
One of the most important points of communication that must be improved is the University’s B-Alert system, which can send texts and email, and is powered by Rave Mobile Safety. It’s touted as the main way to inform students of emergencies, but only one-third of students are signed up for text messages, and students must sign up. These alerts can’t effectively reach the student body when only a small portion of students are registered for the service. The University has considered switching from the current opt-in system to a mandatory program in which students who don’t want alerts would have to opt out, but a timeline for its implementation has yet to be set. We urge all relevant actors to continue to make this a priority, so as many students as possible are notified in emergency situations.
The time delay between incidents and alerts has come under criticism, to which the University has asserted the importance of verifying what has actually occurred. While we appreciate the dedication to accuracy, we believe that multiple reports of a dangerous incident, for example, should be enough for an alert to go out, warning students to avoid a certain location.
The Editorial Board believes that students have a right to know about any potentially dangerous situation in a timely manner, even if UPD does not have access to all of the information. The important takeaway for students in the robbery incident in Smith Hall of Hinman College was simply that there had been reports of a robbery; we didn’t need all the details of the case. We need to know the necessary information about an incident as soon as the University knows — we need to be able to keep ourselves safe. Although UPD’s concern with sending out the correct information is valid, the delay is not justifiable in dangerous situations that students need to be aware of immediately.
Additionally, the discrepancy between reporting on-campus incidents and off-campus incidents must be cleared up. When a BU student was assaulted in late August outside of Twin River Commons, a student housing complex in Downtown Binghamton, and when two BU students were involved in a stabbing at The Rathskeller Pub in September, the University did not issue statements until days later and many hours later, respectively. BU is unique among other universities because a large number of our students are in the Downtown area at any given time, especially on the weekends. The city of Binghamton and the University’s campus should not be treated as two separate entities when it comes to communicating emergency messages — students frequently travel back and forth between Vestal and Downtown, and we must be immediately made aware of any incidents that occur Downtown as well. UPD and the Binghamton Police Department should work closely together to ensure that these kinds of messages are relayed in a timely manner.
The Editorial Board acknowledges that the University makes a strong effort to alert students of any possible danger. However, receiving urgent text messages about water main breaks, yet only simple emails about assaults that occurred Downtown, is unacceptable. There needs to be a more concrete definition of what is considered an emergency, and there needs to be more of an effort to report these things in a timely manner. Delivering the message efficiently should be the University’s top priority in order to protect our safety.