The university has historically been gun-shy about using its UAlert emergency notification system for non-weather events. The Frequently Asked Questions page states the system was designed to disperse information in the “event of a major emergency affecting the campus.” Students have the option of receiving the alerts as voicemail, text messages, email, Tweets, Facebook posts, and even RSS posts. According to the system’s official Twitter page, 68% of alerts have been about tornadoes and inclement weather. 23% were test alerts. The rest included: one fire alarm activation, one power outage, and one drill. The only crime alert was about burglary and issued on Feb. 18, 2013.
One might get the notion that crimes are just not common on campus. A great thought to entertain. In reality, there’s a crime reported just about every day, according to the campus Police Department’s crime log. Thanks to the Clery Act, which enforces universities to publish crime statistics as a requirement for federal aid, any student can check out the previous three months’ crimes. These crimes aren’t just parking violations, which is surprising considering the ubiquitous patrol of fluorescent-vested police officers.
During Jul. 2019, there were 16 crime reports. In contrast, there were 25 reported crimes in August, mainly due to a busier fall semester. Still, both months only had one issued UAlert, which was a test alert.
On Jul. 30, 2019, there were reports of a strangling at Tech Hall posted on Reddit by user kylobae66. The victim was a student. She was in the computer lab when the perpetrator came in and attempted to strangle her and lock her in the room. This incident was reported in the crime log as “Assault; Burglary,” and it was not reported on the UAlert system. While the issue was resolved, the university did not follow the precedent they’ve set on sending alerts for burglaries.
Early Sep. 2019, there was a trickle of rumors about students contracting norovirus on campus. By Sep. 10, there were 35 students affected, and there were 14 more by Sep. 11 for a total of 49. A WAFF report claims the number of people affected could have peaked at 60.
The Dean of Students sent emails regarding the issue on Sep. 11 and Sep. 13. The latter date included a survey to narrow down the potential causes. While there is no precedent for using the UAlert system for virus outbreaks, it can be argued that this event can be classified as a “major emergency.” Norovirus spreads easily and quickly. Causes include direct contact, caring for a sick person, and sharing food or eating utensils. A thorough emergency broadcast on all UAlert channels, as opposed to just email, could have hypothetically culled the virus’ spread through student awareness. The university has yet to make a determination about the virus’ cause, but ruled out the dining facilities after testing.