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In Harm’s Way: The Failure of PSUTXT

Around ten o’clock yesterday night, an armed robbery happened at the Lion Shrine. Yes, a horrible act of humanity occurred near the symbol of strength for every Penn Stater. If you received the news last night, the chances are high that you read about it on your Twitter feed. However, there was one organization that sent neither text nor tweet about this incident: PSUTXT.

According to Penn State Live, “PSUTXT is a service designed to alert the Penn State community… when situations arise on campus that affect the ability of the campus… to function normally.” Commonwealth campuses received a flurry of text messages last month when Pennsylvania encountered heavy rain and multiple floods. In August, the system informed University Park about a suspicious package in West Halls, which later turned out to be an ordinary parcel. And one year ago, PSUTXT warned about a gunman on the Mont Alto campus. The man turned out to be a groundhog hunter who had gotten lost, and police determined that no crime was committed.

PSUTXT is no stranger to calamities or possible assailants on Penn State campuses. However, the system undoubtedly failed last night when students, especially those in West Halls, were not warned of the actions of violent criminals. The messaging system must keep Penn Staters safe from harm, and when a crisis like this emerges, it is better to respond quickly than to wait for the matter to settle.

This is not the first time that PSUTXT has made a mistake. Earlier this year, students groaned when they received a text message stating that the University Park campus would be closed for the day…during spring break. In January 2010, PSUTXT told University Park and Commonwealth subscribers alike that the New Kensington campus bookstore was closed. While these flaws are mere hiccups that can be laughed at, the failure to alert students and staff of a gunman on campus demonstrates that the policies of PSUTXT need to be revised to prevent a fatal situation.

UPDATE 9:36 a.m.

From the Penn State Facebook page:

“Those who have said a text message should have been sent following the incident last night at University Park, you are right. One should have been sent in the case of a reported crime such as this. It wasn’t. While the info — http://live.psu.edu/story/55578 — was posted to Penn State Live and its Twitter account, a text message should have been used. Such incidents are extremely rare on this campus, and are not something anyone here is used to.”

About the Author

Doug Dooling, Jr.

I am a staff writer for Onward State. I graduated as a Nittany Lion with Honors in 2013. Now, I am back in Happy Valley to earn a degree at the Penn State Law. Outside of politics and government, my interests include college football, soccer, Irish history, and astronomy.

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