By Jaycie Doerr, WC Editor-in-Chief
MACOMB, IL (WC) – Western Illinois University uses an emergency alert system to communicate with students during crisis situations. This system can be used to send an automated phone call, text message, or email directly to students.
Alisha Looney, Interim Assistant Vice President of University Communication, Marketing, and Media Relations, said that depending on the situation and level of danger, WIU will decide how to communicate with students.
“If the students are not in immediate danger, we will use that to send out an email,” Looney said.
However, the University Housing and Dining Services (UHDS) does not use this alert system to communicate with residents in dorm halls. Instead, Jessica Butcher, Director of Student Life, said that in an emergency, resident assistants are used to communicate with students.
“We rely on our people to communicate,” Butcher said. “Each resident assistant might have a little different line of communication with their floor.”
Resident assistants at WIU are employed undergraduate students, who during emergencies are not always on campus. Butcher said there is no plan to go digital because there is no accurate way to keep students’ contact information.
This seems implausible because UHDS has information on every student regarding their official WIU email and contact information via the Student/Alumni Records System. Here, students input their contact information as well as emergency contact information.
This means UHDS has a way to communicate with students directly and it chooses to use the most unreliable method of communication, other students.
Jace Clayes, a Thompson Hall resident, spoke about a fire evacuation that happened in January of 2023. He said “(It took) about an hour before our RAs told us it would be a long time” (an hour to inform students that they would not be allowed back in their building for several more hours).
In the fall semester of 2022, Washington Hall residents were displaced for two hours without any word from the university. When residents were allowed back in the building, they had all been fined for the fire alarms going off with no explanation as to what had happened or why they were being fined. No notification was given other than a “community notice” posted by the elevators in the lobby and basement.
Residents who live on campus deserve better than mediocre communication from UHDS. Residents are adults and have the right to be informed on happenings in their housing accommodations.