UT students help create action plans for campus crises

UT's Student Government wants changes from University leadership after the stabbing on campus earlier this month.

The University of Texas Student Government wants changes from university leadership after the fatal stabbing on campus earlier this month.

Several action items were geared to the University of Texas Police, Communications Ooffice and the Provost's Office. The changes are described by students below:

UTPD Action Items:

1.) Change Text Message Alert Policy. UTPD will be making changes to the 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 They have also voiced the need for a new dispatch system as the current one is outdated and slows down information flow.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.

Staff hopes the changes will help students feel safer. 

“Even though the threat to public safety was essentially over within two minutes, the campus doesn't know that, so that's why you have to get those messages out from the police or the lead force from a crisis like this,” The University of Texas Communications Director, J.B. Bird said.

Students believe it’s in horrific moments when resources like these are the most valuable.

“And while we hope this is something that never has to be in play, we need to be prepared going forward and we want the student body to know and be able to represent their voices in making sure--that we ensure a safe campus going forward and take the steps to respond to emergency situations that allow students to be at least a little more in the know when it comes to what's going on on campus,” Student Government Vice President Micky Wolf said. 

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