University remains confident in its ability to keep students safe

By , Reporter  |  Monday, January 21, 2013 12:59 PM

While lawmakers in Washington clash over new legislation that provides schools with armed guards, university officials and Public Safety said they are happy with the success of St. Thomas’ new emergency notification system.

Public Safety director Dan Meuwissen said the new emergency notification system, UST Alert, is one of the best tools the university has for student and faculty safety.

<p>St. Thomas has many blue light emergency polls strategically placed around campus. The new UST Alert system allows students to be contacted directly in emergency situations. (Alex Goering/TommieMedia)</p>

St. Thomas has many blue light emergency polls strategically placed around campus. The new UST Alert system allows students to be contacted directly in emergency situations. (Alex Goering/TommieMedia)

“The more information we can get to you in a timely manner is critical to your safety,” Meuwissen said.

The new system, which went started last fall, sends text messages to students who register their phone numbers on Murphy Online. In addition to sending text messages, the system uses a banner at the top of the St. Thomas website to display the message.

One of the most useful tools the system has is the ability to link with the university’s social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Dean of Students Karen Lange said that with the multiple channels for the message to be spread, students are paying attention to the updates.

“I had a couple students tell me that the day we sent out the test, they were all sitting in class and everyone went to look at their phone at the same time,” Lange said.

Junior Andrea Dolsky said she is thankful for the new notification system, and said it’s beneficial for students to have.

“I think it is really convenient to have, especially this past semester when there was the apparent shooting near the Minneapolis campus,” Dolsky said. “I’m glad we have the option of getting those text messages.”

In addition to spreading the word, Public Safety has continued to adapt for faster response times.

Meuwissen said that while Public Safety hosts and attends conferences on security and response issues regularly, some of the experience comes from getting to train with St. Paul Police.

“When training with (St. Paul Police) we get the opportunity to adjust to their response and make sure we are in coordination with them,” Meuwissen said.

Senior Will Bailey said the opportunity for Public Safety to train with the police gives them a nice leg up.

“I’m glad they’re learning how the police handle situations, and that they get to train with experienced officers,” Bailey said.

Junior Lexi Smith said she doesn’t have to think about safety when she is on campus, which she believes is a testament to how secure it actually is.

“I guess I have never really thought about it (safety) when I’m here on campus,” Smith said, “but I think that goes to show how tight-knit our community is and the good job Public Safety does.”

While campus seems safe to many, Lange said that students should stick to the alert system and follow the instructions so everyone stays in the loop in the event of an emergency.

“Students should do what they do best and use the technology available,” Lange said.

Alex Goering can be reached at

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