After the suspicious package was found today on campus and the surrounding area was shut down by NYPD, many of us were anxious to find that, while Barnard students received multiple alerts, Columbia did not send any alerts about the event. David Fine, CC’13, former chair of the SGB and editor emeritus of The Current, had some words to say about this.
This could be a piece about the Boston Marathon bombings and how Columbia is one of the softest targets in New York City. It could be a piece bemoaning that Public Safety hasn’t issued any statements describing their security measures, or even any public protocols for active shooter or bombing events on campus. It could be about how in my four years here I don’t recall ever being told what to do in the event of a mass emergency, or even how to conduct myself during a lockdown.
It could be a piece about the War on Fun, and how Public Safety often seems most occupied with assuring that students don’t become liabilities to the university. Or, how they constantly put in jeopardy various school traditions through their hand-wringing nannying. How so very often Public Safety seems concerned not necessarily with our “safety” but with that of the university’s reputation and rules.
Alternatively, we could talk about how Public Safety charges student groups outrageous sums of money to cover potentially controversial events on campus. How if groups don’t pay those funds then those events can’t happen. It could be a piece about all of that.
But, instead, I’d like to ask one simple question of Public Safety: why doesn’t your emergency text message system work? A few hours ago, the NYPD locked down College Walk for a brief period of time due to a bomb threat.
It turned out to be nothing, but it was serious enough that the NYPD roped off whole blocks of Broadway, and the university decided to send out a mass text message: “Columbia University has reported a bomb threat at 116th street and broadway all recipients are to shelter in place until all clear is given by the NYPD.”
Useful information. Too bad that we all received that text about half an hour after the police started locking down the area—if we received it at all (still waiting for mine). An emergency alert system that delivers its message five minutes late is unacceptable, thirty minutes is beyond rhyme or reason.
Whether it’s a result of outdated technology or slow decision-making, the mass text message delay is unacceptable. One day it could mean the difference between life and death for many Columbians. Thankfully today wasn’t that day. We got a free pass, a do over.
This problem should be a piece of cake for a president who’s so concerned about his own safety that he walks around with a bodyguard on campus. Fix this now, Public Safety, and avoid making a mockery of your own name.
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