© 2023 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Ohio State Students Unaware Of Sign-Up For Crime Emails

Ohio State university earlier this week issued a crime alert after a student was sexually assaulted outside a laboratory. Federal Law mandates Universities and colleges notify students when a serious crime happens on campus. But not everyone on the OSU campus received the alert. WOSU reports there's some confusion, at least among students, about who gets those emailed crime alerts.

"I thought the emails would just go out to everybody. I didn't think you had to sign up for the emails," Aly Clark, an Ohio State senior, said.

Clark sits alongside several other students waiting for a campus bus.

"No, I didn't get an email. But I read on the Dispatch that an email was sent out, but I never received it," she said.

Neither did Sandy Goolsby, John Harp, Rachel Petty, Jake Smith or Annette Mercurio.

Clark said when she was a freshman she was very aware of crime on campus because she lived in a dorm. But now that she lives off-campus she misses most of the notification fliers. When asked what the university could do to make it better Clark said,"Actually send an email out to us. That would be step number one I would say."

The reason why none of these students received an email is because they're not registered to get them.

Ohio State University Police Chief Paul Denton...

"Yeah, it sounds like we have some work to do to reeducate our community," he said.

Denton attributes student turn over for why some are unaware they have to sign up for email or texting alerts.

"As we head into spring, we're going to take our crime prevention messages, our educational opportunities, out to student groups, maybe make the awareness of our messaging systems, the time-warning alerts and the Buckeye Alert System out to the public again," Denton said.

Ohio state has two alert systems - one for crime - like this week's rape, and another for campus emergencies. Federal law mandates colleges notify students of campus crime. At Ohio State, this could mean anything from the most serious - homicide and rape - to more minor offenses like burglary or vandalism. But not all crimes warrant a crime alert.

"It has to be something that presents an ongoing threat to the safety of the members of the campus community. And there's also an assessment of the threat element. And there has to be enough information that we put out that would help people be alert to something. If it's an unknown suspect, for example, no description, just the fact that a crime occurred - in some cases that may not be helpful to disseminate," Denton said.

The other system was adopted after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. The Buckeye Alert System warns the campus of a serious crime, a hazardous materials spill or severe weather. Students, faculty and staff can get a text message or automated call to their cell phones, but again they have to sign up for it.

The way other similar sized universities handle emergency and crime messaging varies.

WOSU wanted to find out what other schools do to let its students know when a crime or an emergency takes place on their campuses. Rhonda Weldon speaks for the University of Texas Police Department. She said Texas students are automatically registered for emergency e-mails and text messages, but they can opt out. Weldon said it's up to university police to decide what justifies a text alert.

"The typical criteria that they use is whether or not they feel there's a risk to anyone else on campus," Weldon said.

Weldon recalls a recent situation where police deemed a text alert necessary: a student was mugged in the wee hours of the morning.

"So immediately a text alert went out. Now, not everybody is happy with that. I mean, we also have people who unsubscribe after an event like that because when they get a text message at four in the morning some people think twice about it," she said.

At the University of Michigan, everyone - students, faculty and staff - receive email alerts without registering. They can sign up to get text messages. But Michigan is more selective with its crime alerts. UM uses alerts for crimes against people - like rape or assault - and not for thefts. Diane Brown speaks or UM's Department of Public Safety.

"We try to be as restrictive as we can with our crime alerts so that people will pay attention to them," Brown said.

While Ohio State can issue property crime alerts, the last ten crime alerts posted to OSU's website were all crimes against people ranging from sexual assault to robbery to abduction at gunpoint.