Campus Messaging System Upgrades Continue Apace

Colleges and universities around the country are continuing to rapidly adopt or upgrade their electronic and wireless messaging systems for campus emergency alerts in the wake of the Virginia Tech mass murder.

On Virginia Tech's Blacksburg, VA, campus, the school will debut Aug. 20 a new electronic unified messaging system called VT Alerts. The system will allow individuals to list in order of preference the method they can be contacted with, telephone, text message, or e-mail to America Online, MSN, or Yahoo.

Students, faculty and staff can sign up for the new alert system, provided through the National Notification Network beginning this week. (See related article here.)

Schools elsewhere are also getting wired quickly:

  • The University of Pittsburgh has instituted a system that enables the Police Department to lock down up to 90 percent of the buildings on campus with the click of a mouse. The system is nicknamed the "Mac Daddy" button. Student enrollment on the school's test messaging alert system, which was installed last August, jumped from 4,000 to 14,000 the day after the Blacksburg killings.
  • The University of Maryland and Towson University, in MD, recently deployed text-messaging systems that allow them to send information to devices including cell phones, e-mail accounts, pagers and personal digital assistants, according to the Washington Business Journal.
  • Catholic University is planning to have a text-messaging system in operation by mid-July, said a university spokesman.
  • George Mason University is testing a text-messaging system that can reach students' mobile phones, according to a spokesman.
  • Georgetown University is exploring adding a text-messaging system for emergency purposes, said a spokeswoman Julie Green Bataille. She said the university hopes to implement at least a pilot program for the system during the next academic year.
  • Howard University is also planning to add a campus-wide emergency alert system that uses text messaging and other methods, according to the Business Journal.
  • Temple University in Philadelphia has added a cell tower on campus to improve the wireless coverage across its Philadelphia campus.
  • The University of Texas at Tyler has also implemented a text messaging system for use in emergencies, according to Howard Patterson, its interim vice-president of student affairs.

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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