In response to the Halloween shooting on USC’s campus, we would first like to express our support for those injured in the incident and wish them a speedy recovery. Their plight should not be devalued simply because they are not students at this university.
We commend the Dept. of Public Safety for their prompt response to the shooting and apprehension of the suspects. We cannot say the same, however, for the university’s distribution of information to concerned students, faculty, staff and parents both during the incident and after its resolution.
While Trojan Alerts were sent out after the shooting, most students did not receive the first message until nearly thirty minutes after the shots were fired. If the Trojan Alert system is such a central part of USC safety and response, why were we getting more frequent and timely updates from the Neon Tommy twitter feed?
Students are justified in their outrage over this issue. A slow alert system is an ineffective one. Fear profoundly affects people—to the point where they can put themselves in one dangerous situation to avoid what they think is a greater one. When students could be trampling each other in blind panic or jumping in a stranger’s car out of desperation to get away, quick and accurate information is necessary to prevent further catastrophe.
There are other inadequacies in the current emergency protocol. For one, signing up for Trojan Alerts is optional and poorly advertised, meaning some students receive no warning at all. Meanwhile, situations as innocuous as road closings are sent through the same system as real emergency alerts, which could cause people to ignore the updates or not take them as seriously as they should. Perhaps University Officials should send messages on severe emergencies from a separate number to ensure viewers take them seriously.
We understand that no response to this kind of occurrence could be perfect and the DPS and LAPD ultimately did their job successfully. However, even in the shooting’s aftermath, the university failed to acknowledge the response’s shortcomings. In the letter sent out by President Nikias on Thursday, there was no mention of the inadequacy of the Trojan Alert system or that many freshman students were denied entry to campus and left stranded on the row up to forty five minutes after a text was sent confirming the gunman’s arrest (which, given the slowness of Trojan Alerts, probably happened much sooner).
When there is a gunman at large on campus, we need immediate notification so we can better protect ourselves and those near us. In the wake of a shooting, we need acknowledgement of the response’s shortcomings and how it can—and will—be improved in the future. We may be young college kids, but we can handle the truth, we deserve the truth and when our personal security is at stake, we need the truth.