The night of the mob attacks on Oct. 21, I had been out a few blocks from my apartment walking to get food from Pita Chip when I found myself in a sea of madness on North Broad Street.
While I talked to my mother on the phone, I saw young adults arguing with police officers and trying to force their way into local businesses. I didn’t have a clue what was happening because a TU Alert hadn’t yet been sent to students and faculty.
The delay in receiving a TU Alert caused confusion among students — but it isn’t an isolated issue. I have heard various student complaints about the university’s TU Alert system before that night, too.
But I think many of these complaints are unfounded, and result from a lack of basic knowledge about how the university’s TU Alert system functions.
Complaints are often about the vague language used in alerts, or the lack of alerts for certain crimes at all.
“I think TU Alerts should be more prompt and more detailed instead of just saying, ‘Police are responding,’” said Jordan Peterson, a freshman media studies and production major.
“We get more alerts about the Health Sciences Campus than we do about Main Campus,” said Candy Wright, a junior marketing major. “And a lot of things occur on Main Campus that they just don’t report.”
Students need to understand that TU Alerts are only sent out to students and faculty if the reported crimes meet certain guidelines. Charlie Leone, the executive director of Campus Safety Services, said a TU Alert is only sent out if there is an ongoing threat to students’ safety.
“We look at the crimes which would have an imminent danger to you: Is there a gun? Is there a knife? Is there a serious assault?” Leone said.
“If an apprehension [of a suspect] was made the threat’s not there,” Leone added. “But if it’s ongoing where the person has left the area then there’s a chance you could be subject to harm, so we put that out.”
Leone said students are already bombarded with information. Although some students have complained about certain incidents not being reported, Leone wants to avoid an overflow of alerts. The scarcity of alerts is what makes them effective.
Junior marketing major Alia Abu Marzouq said she opted to stop receiving TU Alerts for about three months because she was getting so many. Students can “opt out” of receiving TU Alerts directly to their phone through Self Service Banner on TUportal, but cannot stop receiving alerts sent out via email.
“I was sick of constantly getting vague alerts,” she said. “But then I realized I was out of the loop and would be out in certain situations and wouldn’t know what was going on.”
If alerts were sent out more often, students would likely tune out the information, which defeats the point of the alerts in the first place.
Reda Nicholson, a senior speech, language and hearing major, also said she thinks the alerts are too vague.
“I had to stop getting TU Alerts because they always came after the fact and never gave me what I felt was enough information,” Nicholson said.
But alerts aren’t supposed to update students like a news outlet would. They are just supposed to warn students of possible danger. Students do not need to know every single detail of an incident to know they should avoid an area.
“Our goal is to keep you safe and put out as much information as we can at the time to keep you safe,” Leone said. “We’ll never get into that long type of thing with all of the details.”
Leone said that in recent years, the TU Alert system has seen some improvements. For example, alerts used to have to be approved by the university president before being sent out, but this practice was amended to save time.
There is room to further improve the TU Alert system. But more importantly, communication must be improved between students and Temple Police about how the alert system fundamentally works.
Leone said he is working with Temple Student Government to find out what could be improved. And TUPD is assembling a list of answers to frequently asked questions about TU Alerts to help students better understand the system.
This communication between students and TUPD is essential for our safety, and for further improvement to the system. It is important that TUPD remains receptive to feedback and that before students go straight to criticizing the TU Alert system, they are properly informed about how it works.
Cierra Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.