There was seemingly no escape from the litany of e-mails, text messages and automated voice messages sent out through the new CruzAlert system to the students and faculty members of the UC Santa Cruz community reporting a “suspicious device” near the campus main gate on May 21.
The solid kick in the pants provided by this “suspicious device” potentially looming just outside our collegiate bubble opened our eyes to the many unexpected dangers the world has to offer. It also allowed us to revel in the splendors of Bay Street as traffic moved in an appropriately sluglike fashion.
But most importantly, receiving multiple text messages, e-mails and phone calls in rapid succession shined a light on the men and women who work hard to keep us safe. The recent scare allowed us to test out the current CruzAlert system, take a moment to be thankful that the aforementioned device was not a bomb, and thoroughly prepare ourselves in case we’re not so lucky next time.
The prompt and concise nature of the system as it was executed last Thursday morning was valued, yet the brevity of the message and unclear directions on what to do left students in the dark.
The three-phrase alert seemed oversimplified. The successive messages did little to inform students on an appropriate course of action and could have caused confusion and panic had this been a real emergency.
Students were not told whether or not to attend class, what to expect in terms of traffic, or what to prepare for in general. When those in confusion are left without practical information, the situation feels volatile and frightening. It is important that those behind CruzAlert put an emphasis on not only alerting and protecting students, but also on making sure they feel safe and informed.
Problems with a general lack of transparency in all things administrative at UCSC can’t be solved overnight. But when it comes to the safety of students, faculty and staff, we cannot compromise the quality and clarity of information.
A strong relationship with police and those handling emergency situations is extremely important to UCSC students. We’re less likely to run off and act irrationally if we feel we’re in the loop. Students who are confident and well-versed in emergency protocol can be counted on to make wise decisions if, or when, disaster hits.
It’s obvious that the situation was unclear and possibly scary even to those who were assigned to inform us. We are thankful for their promptness, hard work, and dedication to student safety. We’re even more thankful that it was not actually a dangerous situation and we suggest that our university takes this opportunity to work out the kinks in the CruzAlert system.