Should classes be suspended after a HawkAlert?


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HawkAlert doesn't necessarily have the best track-record as an emergency system. I speak from personal experience when I say that my mother usually hears about these so-called "threats" hours before I do. And on many an occasions, I have been in a discussion or lecture when a fellow classmate or professor remarks, "Did anyone hear about this guy with a knife or something?"

Just before Thanksgiving break, on Nov. 14, 2011, a potential armed suspect who apparently posed a supposed safety threat to the university was found and arrested 30 miles away from the University of Iowa campus. There is also some discrepancy as to how long it took for the consequential HawkAlert to be issued and if — when issued — it was even timely.

Thus, the actual efficiency of the program in the first place is somewhat questionable. HawkAlert's ability to prompt class suspension should be reserved for real, pressing, large-scale threats that have been confirmed and directly concern the immediate well-being of students on campus.

The purpose of the HawkAlert is to alert students and staff when there is a situation that might pose a potential threat to the health or safety of the university environment. It's purpose is not to retard academic progress or regulate daily life. This a simple issue of power, nothing more. A system that has evident flaws and inconsistencies should not be afforded the authority of adversely affecting the fluidity or productivity of a school day — especially when so many of the alerts seem to involve a "possible armed suspect."

The result of temporary class-suspensions in the event of a HawkAlert would mean the fragmentation of academic subject-matter, the interruption of lectures, the readjusting of syllabi, and an overall inconvenience for the masses on campus.

Allowing HawkAlert to affect our daily lives any more than it already has would be regretful. But HawkAlert does exist for more than just creating an awareness of local perps. It was also created to alert students and staff of natural disasters and severe on-campus security breaches.  

So, this is a circumstantial issue. If there's a tornado, please call off classes. If there's a student playing Dirty Harry in MacLean, shoot me a text so I can hop on my 10 speed and get out of there. But when it comes to Ped Mall crazies and guys who steal cell phones from pedestrians, spare me the news, because I'm here for an education.

— Samuel Cleary


I'm one of those guys who likes to curl up in a ball when there's trouble. Call me a coward, but I think staying alive is more important when starring down a barrel of a gun.

That's why UI should cancel or postpone classes when there is a HawkAlert — because it is a life-or-death situation.

It's always the same process. There's the text message or the phone call with some vague recording — the last of which was a gunman on campus. I usually don't know what to do, whether to stay inside even if I have class and get docked attendance points or go outside and risk getting robbed at knife point.

You would think my priorities would be clear in this situation, but when you get 2 percentage-points per absence, you don't want to miss class. Ever.

And there is no precedent for it. Of course, I don't know many professors who would take off points if one of their students was robbed or mugged, but I can imagine a professor thinking a student is abusing the HawkAlert to get out of class. If UI had a clear-cut policy concerning attendance and HawkAlerts, then the procedure would be streamlined.

If you have a reasonable fear against going outside, then you should not have to go to class. No student should be made to go outside if a gunman is loose and in the area.

This is why UI should make it clear and cancel classes when there is a HawkAlert. If the situation warrants a HawkAlert, it most likely warrants classes being postponed until the safety of the students is relatively certain.

But until then, once I get that text message, I will curl up into the fetal position on the floor, and not go outside until the UI police tell me it is safe.

— Benjamin Evans

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