The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

*Clarification appended

About 50 percent of Penn students have entered their cell-phone numbers in the University's new emergency text-messaging system, a rate that is on par with or better than the sign-up rates at several other peer schools.

Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said that, while she hopes to have 100 percent of all cell-phone numbers in the system, she is "very pleased" with the level of enrollment in PennAlert.

"We're in a lot better shape today than we would have been" without the system, Rush said. "We have this bridge to communicate with the community, and we think it will be very effective."

The relative success comes even without an on-campus advertising campaign, though some students are still unaware of the program.

PennComm director Mitch Yanak said DPS is working to make the sign-up feature on Penn InTouch more prominent.

DPS officials are also trying to encourage enrollment by reaching out to parents: The Penn Parents Fund recently sent an e-mail out to its listserv describing PennAlert and urging parents to ask their children to register.

Catherine Bath, executive director of Security on Campus, an organization that monitors college security, said that, despite the lack of marketing, Penn's done well enough to make the system effective.

"I think that's a pretty good start, actually," Bath said. "If there is truly something dangerous going on and students [who have signed up] see the message, they're going to tell the people around them."

The notification system, through which safety officials can send text messages to students, staff and faculty with details about emergencies, has been installed by thousands of schools nationwide following the communication problems during last spring's shootings at Virginia Tech University.

Princeton University spokeswoman Robin Izzo said 90 percent of Princeton's current freshman class has submitted cell-phone information, though only about 25 percent of other undergraduates have done the same.

Harvard spokesman Joe Wrinn said about half of the university's 20,000 students, staff and faculty members have submitted their emergency contact information since the program was initiated in mid-August.

Rush said the first test, scheduled for Oct. 30, will point out any glitches within the system.

"This will be an opportunity for us and the company to challenge the system," Rush said.

She also said she hopes the test will encourage more students to register for PennAlert.

Princeton's notification system was tested for the first time last May. Izzo said the test - which contacted 87 percent of the campus community - allowed officials to pinpoint a few errors that have since been updated.

Clarifcation: This article states that there was no advertising campaign for the texting service. However, DPS did reach out to select student groups regarding the service.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.