I was awakened the last two mornings around 5:30 courtesy of my Kent State “Rave Alert.” In both cases, it was a text message announcing cancellation of classes at our Ashtabula campus, so it didn’t affect me this time. By last week’s alert about a snow day here at the Kent campus did. These are welcome pings, even when they disrupt my sleep.
The university implemented the text-message alert system last spring in response to safety concerns following the Virginia Tech shootings. When I polled students in my classes about the proposal, most insisted they would never surrender their cell numbers — never. Almost certainly, the evil geniuses of the administration would sell the numbers to spam marketers or use them to promote career fairs. “No way,” I was told.
Isn’t it refreshing to see, after all these years, that college students still don’t trust “the man”?
Of course, Kent State has sold not one number and sent not one spam text using the system. The university uses Rave sparingly and only in true emergencies that affect the campus community — weather problems, power outages and the like. And we’re thankful that none of those alerts has involved violence or other life-threatening chaos.
Simple communication that breaks through the clutter and makes a difference in people’s lives. Wish it were all that easy, eh?
The shootings as NIU prompted a second round of anxiety on campuses, and prompted our campus safety forces to update the emergency management plan. Unfortunately, they elected to distribute a copy to all of us via email. Here it is in handy (accck!) pdf format — all 36 pages of it! emergencypland7.pdf
I joked on the faculty listserv that an emergency handout will only help me if it fits in my wallet. Invoking the words of Chief Martin Brody, a colleague responded: “You’re gonna need a bigger wallet.”
It’s too bad this communication will fail, because our safety folks have invested a lot of time in the project, and their message is important to us all. What’s needed here is just a little PR counsel and some good old fashioned, face-to-face in the form a safety “roadshow” that hits every department on campus.
F2F campaigns are labor intensive, but they break through. This pdf will not — assuming it even clears the spam filters. I offer this message not as a criticism of our outstanding safety forces, but as a reminder of PR’s critical role in community well being.