If students received a text message Sunday about the bomb scare in Holly C, it did not come from the University. With something as serious as a bomb threat on campus, it is worrying that the emergency text messaging system was not used to warn students in the area.
USF launched its MoBull service in 2002 to alert students, faculty and staff of emergencies through text messages and e-mail. Students could also sign up to receive information about campus events and coupons from local advertisers.
Students can sign up for the service, now called MoBull Plus, for free on OASIS. USF has always encouraged students to sign up for the program, especially after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, according to Bay News 9. In the past, the system has been used to warn students of weather-related emergencies and school closings.
Last fall, students received text messages concerning a chemical spill in the Physics Building and USF Polytechnic being closed. If a spill that affected one academic building deserved several text alerts, why weren’t alerts sent out about a bomb threat in a residence hall?
Sunday’s bomb scare was the second time this semester the University failed to alert students about a serious incident. Only last month, 26-year-old David Joseph Thornton pointed a loaded gun at a crowd of people outside of Cooper Hall. There was enough time before University Police (UP) apprehended him for an emergency text message to be sent out. It is hard to imagine why a man with a gun loose on campus did not deserve an alert.
The University has been more prompt in the past. On June 25 around 2 p.m., UP was notified that a man with a gun had been seen on campus near Cooper Hall. At 2:25 a text message was sent through MoBull telling students to avoid the Cooper Hall area. The incident turned out to be a false alarm — the man was an ROTC student with a dummy rifle used for drills. Nevertheless, it showed the University was equipped to quickly alert students of possible dangers.
In a letter, President Judy Genshaft wrote that the false alarm was a great test for the emergency system and that the University’s response “was accomplished definitively and brought peace of mind to our University community.”
The text messaging service has proved effective in the past, which makes these recent failures all the more concerning. In an emergency situation, information is critical, and the University must be able to provide it to students.