Should more money be invested in Hawk Alert alternatives?


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Hawk Alerts should be frequent, serious, and infectious. With Hawk Alert, the University of Iowa has the ability to reach the entire community — its students and employees — in around 15 minutes. More money should be put into it, because according to its last report from Blackboard Connect — the service that supplies the Hawk Alert — it only reached 91 percent of the community during the last alert, the shooting of 30-year-old Donelle Lindsey.

There is the argument that enough has already been invested in this program, with its estimated cost of $28,000 annually, but the full application of the services that Blackboard Connect offers has not been made available to university students and employees. The company offers a smart-phone app allowing its users to see immediate updates, as well as a feature allowing each teacher to reach all of her or his students immediately, something that could be extremely valuable in the reporting of a dangerous event on campus.

The university's site on the Hawk Alert states, in bold, "If you wish to be notified in an emergency, make sure that your contact information is up-to-date," but this simply is not enough. Measures need to be taken to make sure that each student from Orientation to graduation has immediate access to this valuable resource.

The university could send a series of emails; maybe take a page out of the UI Office of Research's playbook and bombard students until it gets a response. Or, it could undertake the overwhelming burden of having a work-study student call up those who are part of the system but not registered to a mobile phone to make sure the school has the most effective way of reaching them. If the call goes home, the matter of getting a mobile number is just a miscommunication. I can't imagine a parent of a student being reluctant to have their son's or daughter's mobile phone on record so that they can be notified of life-threatening situations.

The real issue here is the safety of UI students, faculty, and staff, something that should never be compromised because of financial issues. The updates to this program needed to ensure the safety of all students would cost money, but very little, and if the safety of one student were to be improved drastically, the investment would pay off tenfold. The university is obligated to provide an academic environment, but by doing so, it creates an intimate web of social networks, something invaluable and worthy of protection.

— Jacob Lancaster


It's a great idea, but it's poorly executed.

Although Hawk Alert has obviously nothing but the best intentions, the system has shown to be unreliable — time and time again, these alerts have failed to deliver a detailed message to all University of Iowa students.

In the day and age that we live in today, ensuring the safety of the UI community is a must. Devoting resources and money into a notification system that is clearly flawed doesn't properly ensure our safety, and that's why we should scrap the current model and put together a more effective, reliable method of communicating urgent messages to the university community.

The most recent Hawk Alerts, sent out just after midnight on June 22, reached just two of my four roommates, all UI students, who are living in my house this summer. Here's just a small snippet of how unreliable the notification system is.

UI student David Salvatore said Hawk Alerts are often unreliable.

"I usually receive all of the Hawk Alerts, but the methods of receiving them are very inconsistent," he said. "Sometimes, it's a phone call, a text, or an email … we need a notification system that is both reliable and timeliness."

"Alerts" are too vague at many times because key information is often left out. The UI community should be informed about the situation as much as possible so people will know how to properly prepare themselves.

We should expect the very best results from Hawk Alert service provider Blackboard Connect, and if the UI community isn't fully confident in the company's ability to ensure our safety, we should look at other service providers. There are plenty of options to chose from.

The UI uses Blackboard Connect to conduct its emergency notifications only because the university is part of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. That organization basically buys into the "ones size fits all approach," meaning it expects that all of the hundreds of universities that make up the association have the same communities.

It's clear that Hawk Alert raises plenty of doubts and questions about the effectiveness of the system; the university should invest in a more organized and reliable notification system.

We're investing resources into something that's clearly unreliable.

—Matthew Williams

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