On Thursday afternoon, the phones of Sonoma State University students simultaneously started “blowing up” in classrooms with alerts about an off-site traffic accident. But why aren’t they alerted in a similar fashion on issues that are just as concerning, if not more so for students, faculty and staff of the university?
For example, an email was sent out April 7 from Nathan Johnson, SSU chief of police and executive director for Enterprise Risk Management, to the campus community, warning about a string of recent office burglaries.
No additional information was provided, including details on what was stolen and where, whether they were taken from offices or classrooms and the estimated dollar amount of the thefts. With such a situation that may affect most people on campus, there is no excuse for not giving the public more information.
Sonoma State police are particularly quiet at times, which doesn’t make sense.
How are people to be aware and cautious if they don’t know whether the thefts were made out of an office or classroom, and whether it involved computers, smartphones or something else? What are these burglars targeting?
Daily Titan’s April 23 editorial, “Cal State Fullerton’s treatment of media presents huge transparency issues,” raises questions similar as the STAR about how Sonoma State administration is at responding and giving out information to students, particularly concerning public safety.
The editorial covered the years of obstacles the newspaper and other media outlets have faced dealing with the campus, pleading for more clarity and willing to go on the record.
Ironically enough, students signed up to receive SSU Emergency Management notifications were abruptly spammed with phone call, email and text alerts late Thursday afternoon about a pedestrian hit by a school bus turning on Petaluma Hill Road in Santa Rosa, as reported an hour later in the Press Democrat.
The idea of notifications about a car accident barely affecting students sent out twice in less than 20 minutes and yet the community receiving no similar alerts in cases of on-site theft or sexual assault incidents, is definitely a problem.
When a sexual assault occurred March 7, in which a student reportedly was raped in one of SSU’s residence halls, the information wasn’t announced until March 26—and only then because it appeared on the Police and Safety Services’ Daily Crime Log. Police have still declined to give out any details saying it’s an open investigation.
But if there is a real risk to women on campus, shouldn’t that information be shared?
Police Services representatives say Sonoma State doesn’t try to hide crimes from the public for reputation purposes, but with this case, shouldn’t there be more information put out than a simple listing on a website? Keep in mind; April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
It’s difficult to estimate how many students, staff and faculty are fully aware of the crimes happening around campus. It’s doubtful a crime log is the most effective strategy of relaying this information.
It’s a given sexual assault cases require a certain degree of care so as not to identify or bring unwanted attention to a victim.
Yet, there are ways to get the information across in an appropriate manner. As evident from last fall’s flash flood from Dec. 10 to 12, it’s hard to think of a moment during the past couple years where the campus was more unified and in full communication. Mass alerts went out at that time as well.
Sonoma State should use this case as a model for how it can better communicate with students and faculty with openness.
Whether it’s traffic accidents, stolen property, preventing assault or being aware of dangerous weather conditions, these are matters deserving serious attention and preeminent messaging to the surrounding community.