UA students not to blameBy CW Editorial Board | 09/24/2014 9:24am
The meeting held by members of student affairs and UA police officers that took place Tuesday did not serve its intended purpose of clarification. Instead of answers, more questions were raised.
Throughout the session, canned responses were recycled, students scoffed at the lack of genuine answers and it was clear students had lost trust in the University. By being unclear about the reasons behind their lack of communication and transparency during the first few hours after police arrived at Tutwiler Sunday night, the administration continues to create opportunities for distrust to grow.
When asked why the UA Alerts system was not used, Steven Hood, interim vice president of student affairs, said the following:
“What I have to ask, and maybe this is challenging – it is challenging. Again, we have not had any major incident occur, so I think you have to keep in mind nothing happened. No one has been harmed, so that is why we did not feel – what we had at that point in time, we did not think it warranted an emergency notification.”
That no one was harmed is no excuse for staying silent during a potential emergency situation. The University should acknowledge an alert should have been sent during the incident, and the policy for triggering the UA Alerts system needs to be re-evaluated immediately.
The emails sent to the UA community addressing the rumors framed students’ worries as unfounded and childish. The tone used by the administration in emailed statements and in response to questions and concerns during the meeting seemed to deflect responsibility for the situation onto students.
When they chose to remain silent and not send a UA Alert during the search of Tutwiler Hall, the administration created a vacuum for panic. They cannot critique students for a social media situation that their lack of communication contributed to. No information was being provided to students by their University.
In a time of panic and fear, students needed to see the human side of administrators. Instead, students were given canned responses and a video of UA President Judy Bonner reading carefully prepared statements. A little empathy would have gone a long way, but students were once again left wanting.
As leaders of an institution as large as The University of Alabama, administrators cannot be faulted for attempting to stay strong and steer the UA community out of harm’s way and into calmer waters. What was needed at the time was not a show of strength, but rather a show of unity and understanding.
Throughout the day, the University took steps in the right direction by providing phone numbers, sending more frequent updates and trying to become more available. In this instance, though, it may have been too little too late. These steps were reactive in nature. We hope the administration will be more proactive in the future.