If students and faculty were not awake at 2 a.m., many woke up to a concerning text message or email about an “unsafe situation in the vicinity of campus” on Sep. 6.
Later that morning, another message was sent telling students and faculty the event was over.
The students who woke up to both of those messages later in the morning probably assumed it was safe and resumed their normal activities.
But the message notifying students “the event was over” failed to mention that a suspect, who had at that point been linked to four sexual assaults and holding more than 25 people at gunpoint, had yet to be captured.
This lack of information caused students to have a lack of concern about a serious issue.
Students and faculty expect to be able to trust that when a situation is declared over, they are safe. The “event” was not over.
As the suspect remained at large, MoBull Messenger subscribers received yet another alert a few hours later, notifying them that the search for a gunman was still occurring and to “remain vigilant.”
The reason or context was not given, and the lack of information could have put students on campus and in neighboring apartments in danger.
University Police spokesman Lt. Chris Daniel said the university determines when to send out emergency notifications based on the threat posed to the USF community, and that sometimes an “all clear” is issued when the threat to the USF community is less, even if an investigation is ongoing.
However, when an armed gunman is on the loose, students should not be told “the event is over,” when “the event” was never specified and when their safety could still be at risk.
The most alarming part of this situation is that students and faculty were not notified that a gunman was involved until nearly 12 hours after the initial home invasion occurred at 11 p.m. Thursday.
Though the email notification sent from the Dean for Students let students know at 10:45 a.m. that an armed robbery and sexual battery had occurred, the text alerts did not, leaving students, who may not have thought to check their email at a loss of valuable information.
Without this information, the situation seemed far less dangerous than it actually was.
The only way for students and faculty to find out the danger of the situation was to monitor the local news, but students should be able to rely on the notification system to know what is happening and how it affects their safety.
It was not until the Dean for Students sent a notification to students and faculty via email at 4:30 p.m., after the suspect was caught and killed, did any official USF acknowledgement of all the events to the entire USF community occur.
While no one else was harmed after the initial attacks in the early hours despite the lack of informative alerts, USF’s minimal communication with its community is cause for concern in the event that a crisis were to come even closer to campus.