Editorial: Students warned of alert system change

Last week, Rave Mobile Safety replaced CaseWARN as Case Western Reserve University’s text and voice messaging alert system, which informs students of emergencies and university closures due to inclement weather. Although the name is arguably less snazzy, Rave has a good reputation as a higher education emergency communication provider, serving institutions such as Brown University and University of Massachusetts.

The emergency notification service, although rarely needed, is a valuable one, and there is no reason to believe that Rave will do any less of a job than CaseWARN. The transition, however, did raise some eyebrows – largely because the initial email informing students of the change, sent by Rave’s Senior Vice President for Administration John D. Wheeler, looked like spam to many students. As a result, a large part of the campus was not aware of the transition and did not take the necessary steps to register for the service. Hopefully the CWRU administration will send another email confirming the legitimacy of Wheeler’s message and encouraging students to register.

Most students agree that the notification system is a great resource, warning the campus of any kind of crisis, from natural disasters to armed intruders to chemical spills. We are lucky in that we rarely (if ever) have needed to use it – and unfortunately, this has caused many students to ignore it or not take it seriously.

This also brings to light another, possibly serious concern: Just as students often do not take the CaseWARN system seriously, many have made a habit of deleting security alert emails without even opening them. These students cite reasons such as “those things never happen in my area,” “I’m never out after dark,” or “the suspects all look alike.” The majority of CWRU students have been lucky enough to avoid any major incidents, but unfortunately they seem to have come to take this for granted. The security alerts we receive should remind us that crime does happen, no matter how we pretend otherwise, and that we need to be vigilant.

Would students be more likely to read security alerts if they were sent via text message? Maybe. For the students who do read them, a text would likely provide more advanced warning so students could avoid a particular area or be on the lookout for possible suspects. Perhaps warnings should be sent by both phone and email, or students could at least be given the option.

Another concern for many students is the cost of emergency text messages. As noted in The Daily, “cellular phone providers may charge a per-text message fee for the delivery of emergency notifications.” Students may opt out of the notification service, but we hope that none choose to because of the cost. Emergency messages are so rarely sent that the service is unlikely to be cost-prohibitive, but college students are notoriously stingy. The best scenario would be for CWRU to cover the cost of the messages, if possible.

It remains to be seen if the system will be changing at all with the transition between companies. If not, we hope the new provider will be as effective as the last. We also hope the university will consider making future improvements, such as combining the emergency notification and security alert systems.