The Issue:In the past, emergency notifications, weather alerts and class cancellations have been announced inefficiently through underused resources.
Our View:The new emergency notification system has been a long time coming.
The Board of Regents will decide which vendor to contract a new emergency notification system for public universities in South Dakota at their next meeting, March 27-28. The system, which was originally supposed to be released on March 15, will not be available to all South Dakota students until the Fall 2008 semester.
In light of recent events-the chaos that ensued because of the blizzard last March, the tragic school shootings at Virginia Tech in April as well as at Northern Illinois University last month and the panic due to tornado warnings in September-the BOR has decided that there needs to be a better way of letting students know about emergencies. Finally.
The need for a new emergency alert system has been painfully obvious for a very long time. How many articles have been published where our generation’s technical abilities have been analyzed and scrutinized? How many times have we heard on the news that we are living in the technical age? The old way of notifying students about crises-posting signs around campus-was the least effective. Hanging signs took a lot of time, and, quite often, students, especially those off campus, got to their classroom before they discovered something was wrong. Signs would have been a moot point in fast-paced emergencies, like if a tornado touched down in Brookings or if there was a gunman on campus. University officials took a step in the right direction when they began utilizing the Jacks email accounts to send notifications. Almost everything we do, including our homework, is online, and most of us feel like we’re missing a limb if we lose our cell phones.
As with any bureaucratic project, the emergency notification system is behind schedule. The BOR originally intended to release the program statewide this month, but now they anticipate the statewide release of the system will be until the next academic year. The board deserves credit for taking the initiative to utilize technology, even if it took them awhile to recognize the opportunity in front of them. However, the regents need to be prepared for more changes in the near future. Technology is constantly evolving and if the BOR wants to keep this system effective, the system will have to grow at the same pace.
The emergency notification system is a long-anticipated solution to a miscommunication problem that has been very frustrating to students. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t take more tragedies to spur the BOR into change.