- Campus Reactions to Mass Notification
On April 16, 2007, a gunman opened fire at Virginia Tech University, killing 32 people before taking his own life (Blake, 2007). In the aftermath of such a violent campus incident, many universities are looking for ways to improve policies and programs that promote campus safety and allow them to effectively handle emergency situations.
Many universities are considering the implementation of a mass notification system, which in the event of a campus emergency would allow local crime prevention agencies, such as Campus Police, to transmit critical information to classrooms, offices, laboratories, and residence buildings. A variety of technological devices (e.g., cell phones, PDAs, BlackBerrys, and computers) and communication media (e.g., e-mail, text messages, internet banners, and PA systems) would be used to transfer these messages across campus. However, before a university commits to the purchase of a particular system, administrators should first determine how students, faculty, and staff will feel about the use of a particular technology for emergency mass notification procedures. For example, how effective would an e-mail message be that is sent out as part of an emergency warning considering that many individuals may not check their e-mail frequently?
The Campus Police at the University of Windsor were interested in considering such issues before implementing such a system. Thus, the purpose of the current research was to (a) determine how campus community members felt about the use of mass notification technologies, (b) address any issues with those technologies, and (c) recommend how Campus Police could best encourage students, faculty, and staff to accept and utilize such a system with the goal of creating a safer campus for all.
The sample consisted of a total of 2,017 respondents from the Southern Ontario university, including 1,324 females, 676 males, and 17 who did not specify gender. Of these, 1,759 participants identified as students, 70 as faculty, 184 as staff, while 4 did not specify their position. The University of Windsor population was 15,667 students, 900 faculty, and 1,257 staff at the time the survey was administered, so response rates were 11.2% (students), 7.8% (faculty), and 14.6% (staff). The majority of respondents (54.2%) identified as English Canadian. Of the 1,759 students, 1,408 were undergraduate students, 218 were graduate students, 123 were studying law or education, and 10 did not indicate their level of study. Student respondents ranged in age from 17 to 65, with an average age of 23. [End Page 436]
Measure and Procedure
An online survey was specifically designed for this study by the first author in consultation with university experts in survey design, methodology, and campus safety. Questions were designed to gather information concerning the types of communication devices that students, faculty, and staff at the university predominantly use. Items with high face validity were retained, based on expert judgment by the authors and campus safety experts. Participants were asked about their willingness to provide their cell phone numbers to Campus Police. Responses were rated using a Likert-type scale, ranging from 1 (extremely unwilling) to 5 (extremely willing). Participants were asked to indicate how Campus Police could encourage them to provide their cell phone numbers, as well as any reasons why they would be unwilling to do so. Open-ended questions also asked participants why they would or would not be in favor of the university implementing a mass notification system, as well as how the Campus Police could address any concerns regarding mass notification. A content analysis was conducted and open-ended responses were grouped into categories based on frequency of response by three independent raters. Categories receiving high interrater agreement were retained. All students, faculty, and staff were invited via e-mail to take the survey by anonymous and voluntary participation, followed one-week later by a reminder e-mail. An advertisement for the study was also placed in the university’s electronic Daily News. The survey was announced via e-mail as university policy dictates that all students, faculty, and staff use their university-assigned e-mail accounts when conducting university business...