Are pointer alerts helpful or do they just create more panic for students and staff on campus?
Students and staff receive electronic pointer alerts during a life threatening event or after a dangerous incident on campus. Pointer alerts are only activated if students need to be informed about an event that has the potential to pose immediate harm on campus.
Director of Protective Services, Bill Rowe, has worked with Protective Services for over 13 years. He gives advice for students who receive pointer alerts.
“Don’t ignore it, don’t dismiss it. Pay attention,” Rowe said.
The system has capabilities to alert over 11,000 people at one time through text messages, email, residence hall messaging and pop-up messages on university computers. Students are automatically set to receive pointer alerts once enrolled on campus.
Becca Wilbershide, senior family and consumer sciences major, appreciates receiving pointer alerts, specifically by text message. There are many avenues to receive pointer alerts, but she believes that text messages are the most effective for students and signing up for alerts is beneficial for new students who are unsure of them.
“Do it because they let you know if anything scary happens on or near campus,” Wilbershide said.
Pointer alerts are evaluated by Protective Services to determine whether to define a message as an immediate threat on campus or as an off-campus threat with the potential of harming students on campus.
Protective Services has an obligation to provide law enforcement services and emphasize educating students as a crucial step in building a trust on campus.
Michele Miller, volunteer coordinator at the Student Involvement Employment Office, believes that if there was a true emergency, pointer alerts would be the best way to alert everyone quickly. She mentions additional benefits of pointer alerts.
“I think pointer alerts are able to quell some fear if they were able to confirm or not confirm that there was something happening,” Miller said.
The pointer alert system has only been utilized a few times since its conception, with events such as a gas leak and a shooting near campus. Although the pointer alerts may raise panic initially, there is the benefit of protecting students from harm on campus.
Bryce Fassbender, fifth year biology major and international studies minor, believes that the pointer alerts could cause panic instead of helping protect students and would like to see more follow-through after an incident.
“They have to inform students,” Fassbender said. “If they give us a message that this is happening, then give us another message when things are dissipating and safe.”
Both Fassbender and Wilbershide referenced a shooting near campus last year. They received the initial warning about this event but would have preferred an update to ensure everything was taken care of and to confirm that students were safe.
“I think they try to be respectful to not overuse or abuse the system and truly use it to test and make sure it is available if there were a serious event happening,” Miller said.