MoBull emergency alert system underemployed

Patrons of the USF library would probably appreciate being made aware that, in addition to the typical perils of completing assigned papers – lack of computer availability, confusing research materials and overall exhaustion – they may also have to contend with armed robbers.

University Police, however, apparently doesn’t find them entitled to that knowledge.

On May 22, around 11:19 p.m., an unidentified male robbed the Starbucks in the library at gunpoint, according to an article in Thursday’s Oracle. He fled the scene on foot after striking the clerk on duty in the back of the head and pilfering an undisclosed amount of money.

The MoBull emergency alert system – heavily promoted after the tragedy at Virginia Tech – was strangely silent.

When asked about its silence, UP spokesperson Meg Ross said, “In this case, there’s no action for the student to take.”

Despite this response, several actions are likely to spring to a student’s mind. One might, for instance, avoid the library for the evening. If he or she is off campus, the student might wisely resolve to avoid the campus entirely. If on campus, the worried student could either leave the area or make the very plausible decision to retire behind a securely locked door for the night. At the very least, knowledge of a potentially dangerous individual in the vicinity might encourage a person to be more attentive to his or her surroundings.

Strangely enough, UP has kept students informed in other instances. When UP discovered and arrested a well-armed man who was sleeping in his car on campus, a mass e-mail was sent to students to inform them of the situation. However, this e-mail was sent seven hours after the man had been arrested. So, essentially, the students were informed that they had been in danger, but were (hopefully) no longer. Exactly what action had UP intended students to take in this case?

It is, admittedly, a difficult time for campus security. According to a recent article in the St. Petersburg Times, Gov. Charlie Crist has assembled a nine-member task force to address the issues. Significant among them is, of course, staffing. Law enforcement guidelines recommend that USF have at least 70 officers on staff. The University currently employs only 39. USF President Judy Genshaft has laudably promoted the installation of rigorous, uniform standards for campus security, which can be used for rating purposes by academic accrediting agencies.

While students wait for adequate security, however, they should be given sufficient information to make the best decisions they can to protect themselves.