University fails students by not communicating about possible threats

On Monday, the Tempe campus was on edge as potential danger loomed. Some students decided not to go to class, while the students and professors who had yet to check social media had no idea what was going on. According to screenshots of a 4Chan post being shared on Facebook and Twitter, ASU was a target for a potential campus shooting.

The fact that students could only find information on social media caused even more concern. We were trying to figure out what was fact and what was fiction. Unfortunately, ASU itself failed to provide students with concrete answers on what was actually going on.

ASU should have used its alert service, which they claim to use in “primarily life-threatening situations.” If the issue at hand did not fall into that category then it was worthy of the advisory service, which is used in “situations (in) the ASU community that may not be life-threatening and typically affect certain areas of a campus.” 

Students are all familiar with the advisory service, it's the program that has sent messages to the entire student body. The most memorable advisory regarded the infamous bee incidents, but has covered other school concerns like power outages.

The only information students received was vague tweets from the ASU Police Department, and though the information was appreciated, the account is currently just shy of 5,000 followers — a mere fraction of the student body. The ASU PD Facebook page also released similar information throughout the day, but similarly, this page only has 3,051 likes.

The official ASU Facebook page shared ASU PD’s post to a larger following. Meanwhile, Undergraduate Student Government Tempe retweeted information and the ASU Alert Twitter still went unused.

More information regarding the 4Chan post and the fear of a potential shooting was given Tuesday at the Tempe USG meeting. ASU Chief of Police Michael Thompson said, "In hindsight, we look at it and think in the future, if this ever comes around again, I'm sending out the advisory anyway. ... I'd rather deal with that than everyone being worked up and spun up and scared." 

The fact that Thompson acknowledged this was reassuring, however, the University's unwillingness that seemed to be present against using an advisory raises concern.

ASU did not send out an alert to students to avoid causing unnecessary fear in light of what they claimed to be an “unsubstantiated” threat. However, when students came on campus and saw heightened security and helicopters overhead, they couldn’t help but wonder if there was truth behind the social media post. 

Thompson acknowledged this at the meeting as well. The University needed to balance student overreaction with the advisory.

Despite increased police enforcement, and even a helicopter overhead, students did not feel safe. An alert in the form of an email or text would have been extremely beneficial for students to get the correct information. 

At that point, students could then handle the issue in a well-informed way they felt was most safe, whether that means believing it is not a reason for panic or staying away from campus. Instead, students were left to find information on their social media accounts, most of which was from other students and was false.

Despite the post actually being generated from a 12-year-old in Canada, ASU kept us in the dark throughout the process and didn’t give us concrete information regarding the issue Monday morning, despite the University knowing at that point that the threat was from outside of the U.S., according to an ASU PD press release.

A simple message expressing this information to ASU students and faculty Monday would have been extremely beneficial. Although we hope not a single major incident ever occurs on campus, if it does, we sincerely hope ASU will inform us of the necessary information we need as students. We have every right to feel safe on campus and most of that comes from communication between the University and its students.

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