Safety key reason behind Topper Text alerts to students

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Police responded to a stabbing in the 3600 block of South Congress Friday night. 

Staff Writer

In the aftermath of a stabbing that occurred Friday night in the 3600 block of South Congress, 0.1 miles from the intersection of Congress and Woodward, many have wondered why St. Edward’s University Police Department decided not to notify the St. Edward’s community via Topper Text— the university’s emergency communication tool. 

“We were watching the situation carefully and never thought that there was a threat to those on campus,” Chief of Police Rudolf Rendon said.

UPD was in communication with the Austin Police Department. According to Rendon, the suspects fled southbound and away from campus. However, a search helicopter was flying above St. Edward’s and the flashing lights of several police vehicles were visible from campus.

Despite UPD’s reasoning, some students feel that UPD’s lack of communication caused confusion and fear.

Senior Katie Mathias was waiting at the 801 St. Edward’s bus stop to go downtown with other St. Edward’s students while the suspects were on the loose. She heard about what happened because of Hilltop Views’ coverage of the event and saw that APD had put out a warning that residents in the area should stay indoors. She was scared and thankful when the bus arrived.

“Even if there was no danger on campus directly, I think it’s their responsibility to let us know what’s going on around campus as well,” Mathias said. “Would it have been too much trouble for them to send out an alert saying what was happening just so everyone wasn’t left wondering?”

According to Rendon, UPD had already written up an alert message so that if it decided that the situation became dangerous it could notify those registered to receive emergency alerts at a moment’s notice.

“Putting out information just so people are aware instead of just keeping people safe is not a part of our policy. That’s something that we have to weigh when we send out messages. It’s not just about answering people’s curiosity,” Sgt. Homer Huerta said.

Director of Communications Mischelle Diaz said that the decision to send out an alert is a joint responsibility between the marketing office and UPD.

“We want to communicate appropriately. We don’t want to get people worried and create the impression of a threat when there really isn’t one,” Diaz said. 

During the police search, sophomore Emily Ott was walking on campus by herself to put her laundry in the dryer. She said that if she had known about the stabbing she would have waited to do her laundry until later in the weekend. She was surprised that UPD did not contact students but does not question their decision.

“I trust that there was communication happening behind the scenes that didn’t call for alerting students,” Ott said.

On Jan. 23, the university sent out a test alert via Topper Text to ensure that the system was still functioning properly. According to UPD, 96 percent of those registered received the alert. However, only those registered with current information can be reached. UPD and Diaz both urged members of the St. Edward’s community to update their information by logging on to MyHilltop and clicking on the Topper Text quick link at the bottom of the page.

“It’s so important to make sure that the information in that system is updated. The number of people that we reach through that tool is only as effective as the number of accurate phone numbers and emails we have,” Diaz said.

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