Temple tested TU-Alert, its emergency alert system, on Friday, May 9. Students who have registered with the system received a text message, phone call and e-mail explaining that the message was only a test.
On Tuesday, May 13, shots were fired at 15th and Norris streets. No one got a TU-Alert message.
The shooting occurred around 11:30 p.m. A 19-year-old non-Temple female was shot in the chest, and the security kiosk on the corner has bullet holes in it. Marshall Thomas, the 19-year-old suspect, is still on the loose, as the Temple News reported [“Shots fired at 15th and Norris,” Chris Stover and LeAnne Matlach, May 13, 2008].
William Bergman, Temple’s vice president of operations, sent an e-mail to students on May 14 informing them that the incident was believed to be the result of a domestic disagreement and was not a random crime.
Bergman went on to say that neither the victim nor the suspect is believed to have a connection to Temple, and that students did not receive an alert message because the “incident had been contained.”
This was an error in judgment on Temple’s part. The intersection of 15th and Norris is a busy spot: the turf field and Liacouras Center are right there, and many students live nearby. Though the people involved in the shooting are not affiliated with Temple, the crime took place near Temple property and endangered the life of an AlliedBarton security guard who was sitting in a security kiosk marked with a Temple “T” at the time of the shooting.
Police officers declared the incident contained, yet the suspect is still roaming the streets nearly a week later. Although authorities determined that Temple students were not at risk because the shooting was not random, police have labeled Thomas as being armed and dangerous.
An alert message should have been sent out anyway to inform students of the incident. Waiting until the next day to send an e-mail was passive-aggressive and compromises the legitimacy of the alert system.
To make matters worse, Temple may have unknowingly undone its ties with the surrounding community. For all its efforts to be recognized as a neighborhood-friendly university, Temple’s inaction on May 13 sends a conflicting message.
The shooting may not have occurred directly on Temple property, but it happened within campus boundaries, and therefore affects students and community members who live there. If Temple wants to keep up its reputation as community-involved university, then it needs to uphold those standards at all times.
A teenager was shot, but she doesn’t go to Temple, so there was no need for an alert. That’s the image Temple has presented, intended or not.
TU-Alert was set up to warn students about possible dangers on campus. The shooting at 15th and Norris took place near campus property and student residences. An emergency message should have been sent out, even if Temple students were not directly affected. There is no harm in being overly cautious.
The university needs to stop picking and choosing which alerts to send out, because the absence of an alert sends a louder message to students and community members.
Shannon McDonald can be reached at email@example.com.