The University of Nevada, Reno community was dangerously close to a fatal shooting that occurred on Virginia Street near the Church Fine Arts building last Wednesday.
Just after 4 p.m. on Nov. 5, a man was killed by a Washoe County Sheriff’s deputy outside The Wolf Den. While no students were harmed during the altercation, it raised concerns about how safety information is transmitted to students across campus. A significant responsibility falls on the campus safety systems to transmit this information, but for this to be truly effective, students need to educate themselves on the resources at their disposal.
The community reaction to the shooting could have changed dramatically if more students had opted in to the university’s text message alert system, which sent a warning out to students the day of the shooting. Traffic could have been diverted from Virginia Street, students walking to the dorms could have avoided the intersection and community members could have felt calmer about the situation after understanding the details and absence of direct danger to campus.
The alert distributed important information to students by telling them that the altercation had been resolved and that regularly-scheduled classes would continue as planned. However, because students must choose to receive the alerts, only a handful of people actually saw the informative text message. As a result, rumors were spread and many students panicked, wondering if the victim had been a member of the Wolf Pack.
There are a variety of alert systems for students, but to actually use them effectively, they need to be aware the systems exist. Those blue light poles around campus? If you are being pursued by someone you can hit one of the lights and the campus police will track your position. Another little-known fact: if you are standing at one blue light then you should always be able to see another one.
In addition to the texting alerts and blue light systems, there are red banners that appear on campus computers when there is an emergency, accompanied by audio alerts that sound in classrooms. When these alerts go off, it is important for students to be aware of the potential danger to campus.
However, there is a drawback of the computer-based audio system. The system has drawn mixed reviews, causing confusion in classrooms by bewildering professors and scaring some students into thinking that the situation is out of control. While the audio buzzing does accomplish the goal of telling students there is an emergency, it can sometimes be overkill and may cause more harm than good.
Nonetheless, the current systems are able to transmit information quickly, as long as all students are on the same page. Sending out a mass email through the MyNevada listserve would reach nearly all the university’s students and would stop the transmission of misinformation from student to student through social media. Of course, looking at social media can sometimes be effective (with Twitter being the most reliable example), but having the majority of your information funneled from that location is not advisable.
Although no students were harmed in the incident, last Wednesday, should still serve as a lesson to campus; the way the information was dispersed could have been improved. Yes, the administration has a huge hand in this; however, the tools are there for students to be in tune with how information is given to them.
You might have reservations about registering your email or phone number with the campus alert system, but a single text message could go a long way in maintaining your safety on campus.
The Nevada Sagebrush editorial staff can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.