Many remember the Emergency Notification Network (ENN) alert from last year warning the university to be on the lookout for a black male. The only other descriptors given were that he was wearing a white T-shirt and gym shorts – a very generic outfit.
While some students found the ENN alert to be comical, many others on campus were not pleased, and the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) issued an apology the next morning.
The ENN system is in place to help keep students and faculty safe. It’s important for the information provided to be accurate, but not offensive. If people perceive the insensitivity as intentional, they may begin to disregard the ENN alerts altogether, putting themselves at risk.
Identifying race or ethnicity helps narrow down the potential suspects, but it must be done in a way that avoids unnecessary racial profiling or even implication of an entire group of people on campus.
Moreover, when an ENN alert offers conflicting accounts of what is happening, it leaves students confused and also diminishes the system’s credibility.
The OEM strives to get out the most information possible, as soon as possible. While efficiency is key, accuracy is more important. The time taken to ensure that the messages conveyed across all media are consistent is time saved by not having to resend messages with corrections or issue apologies.
That is why the OEM has worked on improving ENN to provide complete yet concise information regarding the situation at hand. We’ve seen their efforts this semester through the testing of the public announcement system, outdoor warning sirens and sample text messages.
Last week presented additional proof of the department’s progress. Students received an ENN alert Thursday regarding a bomb threat at Richter Library. The information provided across all forms of communication was concise and conveyed the point: Avoid the area until further notice.
Only two alerts had to be sent: One alerting the university to the dangerous situation and another reporting that it was all clear. In fact, the second text message included a link to a survey being circulated by OEM to collect feedback on the ENN system.
There is always work to be done to ensure that the ENN system is functioning to its full potential and keeping Canes safe.
Taylor Duckett is a junior majoring in economics.