UT Student Government calls for crisis communication changes

University of Texas at Austin (KXAN File Photo/Alicia Inns)
University of Texas at Austin (KXAN File Photo/Alicia Inns)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Students at the University of Texas called for better communication policies Friday in response to the deadly stabbing that happened on campus May 1, 2017.

The UT Student Government said it would like to see changes to the text message alert policy by having dispatchers notify first responders and then immediately issue a text alert before taking new calls.

“Our hope is really just that students, one, are understanding that the university and law enforcement are there to protect them and to ensure their safety,” said UT Student Government Chief of Staff Santiago Rosales. “And that that’s being communicated to them, and that students feel informed throughout any incident.”

They also called for funding to cover a new dispatcher and dispatch system, a student voice in the crisis communication center, faster emergency communication to parents and better protocol to address rumors that follow a crisis.

Here is the full text of the proposal presented by UT Student Government:

UNIVERSITY ACTION IN RESPONSE TO CAMPUS TRAGEDY

Following the tragic events that occurred on May 1st, Student Government has made it a priority to address student concerns regarding campus safety protocol and the responsiveness of University communication. We’ve met with President Fenves, UTPD Police Chief, Chief Communications Officer, Provost, and other administrators to address these concerns. See action items below:

UTPD Action Items:
1.) Change Text Message Alert Policy. UTPD will be making changes to official procedure to improve the responsiveness of the text alert system. In emergency or life threatening situations, dispatchers will notify first responders and then immediately issue a text alert before taking new calls. This policy change accompanies a recent investment in new text alert infrastructure.

2.) Pursue Funds for New Dispatcher & Dispatch System. UTPD will continue to push for a third dispatcher to help handle the volume of calls and information. They have also voiced the need for a new dispatch system as the current one is outdated and slows down information flow. They are already working with the University to boost the department’s dispatch capacity.

University Communications Action Items:
1.) Include Student Voice in Crisis Communication Center. During future emergencies, two SG representatives will be integrated into the University’s Joint Information Center. They will deliver student concerns and information directly to the communications staff. Note: For immediate updates in a crisis, follow @UTAustin and @UTAustinPolice on Twitter.

2.) Improve Protocol for Addressing Rumors in Crisis. The UT Communications team will work closely with law enforcement to better identify and address rumors and misinformation. Through SG and University social media, students will receive accurate and timely information so they can stay up-to-date on investigations being conducted by law enforcement.

3.) Inform Parents More Rapidly. University Communications has already begun working with Texas Parents to encourage parents to receive opt-in updates. They will work to relay information more promptly to parents about campus safety and emergencies. Note: Parents should sign up for a free Texas Parents membership to receive updates (https://texasparents.org/membership).

Provost’s Office Action Items:
1.) Create New Academic Protocol for Crises. The Provost’s office is developing a new protocol on how decisions regarding issues like class cancellations are made and communicated. This protocol will guide University decisions in emergency situations for academic issues.

2.) Distribute Crisis Resource Sheet for Faculty. The office is creating a resource sheet for faculty that addresses handling crisis situations and considering student self-care. It will include best practices for accommodating students in times of need.

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