Wayne State Launches Emergency Text Messaging System

Following the example of colleges and universities across the United States, Wayne State University launched an emergency broadcast service that can send warning messages directly to students' cell phones.

The university had an existing emergency notifications system that delivered messages via e-mail, a telephone hotline, radio/TV news alerts, and the university's website. But the cell phone network is faster, administrators said.

"We recognize the need to address students' evolving communication preferences," said Joseph Sawasky, Wayne State's associate vice president for computing and information technology. "With the recent tragedy (at Virginia Tech), we placed a real priority on this new and innovative emergency broadcast messaging service."

To activate the service, students, faculty, and staff must register their cell phones with the university. Users have the option to receive messages by text, e-mail or instant message. Wayne State deputy chief information officer Patrick Gossman said 38,000 people have signed up for the program since it launched two weeks ago.

Students are reminded to sign up for the service the first time they log into a campus system, such as e-mail, he said. Text messages will not be limited to just emergencies, Gossman said. Course announcements, campus news, notices to faculty and staff might be included by next year.

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Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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