Student attitude and perceived effectiveness towards MU Alerts
Researchers: Anthony Scarpiniti, Savanna Peterson, Leah Cousins, Lauren Wells, Jamie Edgar
Group 1 began to do research on MU alerts after coming to the conclusion that during all the years the five members have been at Mizzou (ranging from 2.5 to 4.5), we have felt unsafe and uninformed on campus due to a lack of communication about violent happenings. MU Alerts are an online emergency information center for the University of Missouri. They communicate with Mizzou students, employees and parents via text message, a website, email and Facebook. Only Mizzou students and staff can be signed up for the alert system however anybody can view the online postings. MU alerts gives individuals the options on what kind of notifications they would like to receive and if they would prefer calls or text messages.
However, while Mizzou is lucky to have an alerts system like that, members of Group 1 felt that they were highly ineffective and wanted to see if other students did as well. We heard complaints from many of our peers that MU Alerts didn’t notify them fast enough when something dangerous happened or only gave minimal details, thus ensuring more hysteria. As we were conducting our research, we found that MU Alerts continued to be ineffective when violence on our campus was rumored to be happening as a result of the #Concernedstudent1950 protests.
Studying MU alerts is so important because this alert system could potentially stop a student from being on an area of campus where there is recorded act of violence or prevent a student from coming to campus if something dangerous is happening. MU Alerts is important because it hypothetically gives students the opportunity to get themselves to a safe place should a crisis occur, however, we feel that they simply do not do enough.
While Group 1 recognizes that not all MU Alerts will have all of the details right away, we are hoping that they will be improved so instead of causing hysteria by a lack of details or Alerts sent, they will overall help the safety of Mizzou students. Our main goal from this research was to find out if the majority of Mizzou students really did feel that MU alerts was ineffective and if so, where/when on campus did they feel most unsafe? We also polled in what capacity they received their alerts in.
After the series of events that have recently occurred at the University of Missouri, MU Alerts found itself in the middle of student criticism for its lack of clarity and effectiveness during times of need. For example, the issue of timeliness arose after the University failed to notify students of a loose armed gunman on campus. Students were notified of his whereabouts after he had been killed by MU police leaving many students helpless and uninformed while the gunman was on campus. Another area criticized by students leading to our research was lack of information regarding the location of the area an alert was affecting. This is seen in a tweet sent by MU Alerts on August 27 stating “Active threat near MU take precautions.” Not only does this not describe the threat, but also does not inform students where the threat takes place to make them aware of areas to avoid. Students responded with questions via tweet like “what kind of threat?”, “No point in telling us there’s a threat on campus if you can’t tell us what kind of threat it is & where it is!” By lacking in these areas MU Alerts lead to uncertainty for students and their safety.
The population of interest in this study is MU undergraduate students. Participants were asked to complete an online survey about MU alerts with the aim of answering these following questions:
100 MU students completed the survey from November 3rd 2015 through December 6th 2015. Most respondents took 2 to 5 minutes to complete the survey. On average most participants were females(86%) and most of the participants lived off campus(65%). The survey consisted of close ended questions with the use of a likert scale to get a sense of the student’s general attitude or feelings towards MU alerts. For example student’s responses to their feelings towards safety were somewhat safe, very safe, neutral , unsafe, or very unsafe. The majority of the participants were recruited with the help of Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. A link to the survey was posted on those social media outlets where the students could follow the link in order to complete the survey. The survey link was also sent as a text message so students with smartphones could access it easily to complete it.
How safe do you feel on campus in the morning?
How safe do you feel on campus at night?
- RQ1: Are MU Alerts effective?
- 53% of MU students disagree or strongly disagree that MU Alerts are clear.
- 57% of MU students agree or strongly agree that MU Alerts are effective.
- RQ2: What time of day do you feel least safe?
- MU Students felt most safe in the mornings and in the afternoon
- RQ3: What do students think of MU Alerts?
- 57% of MU students agree or strongly agree that MU Alerts are helpful
- 53% of MU students disagree or strongly disagree that MU Alerts are clear
- RQ4: Do students feel safe on campus?
- 86% of MU Students feel safer on campus than off
Consensus of participants:
- MU Alerts generally are helpful
- MU Alerts are not seen as being clear
- MU alerts favor towards being useful
- Very split for safety, and satisfaction.
- Feel least safe at night
- Feel safer on Campus
- MU alerts make them feel generally afraid
Generally speaking, MU alerts are helpful but they need to be tweaked so they are more clear and so students are satisfied. From the data shown I would say that MU alerts are only somewhat effective.
We identified a few key limitations that could have provided insight on larger social issues at this campus. Questions pertaining to off-campus living could have been construed as ambiguous in determining how to classify student housing complexes and neighborhoods that touch the north, east, and west corners of campus. Furthermore, we initially didn’t see race to be a demographic quality that would make a statistical difference. However, after the events of #ConcernedStudent1950, we were able to see that feelings of insecurity began to arise on social media among students of different racial backgrounds and could be a possible factor.
With careful consideration of these limitations, we propose further research be done on student feelings of perceived effectiveness of toward their university’s emergency alert systems. We recommend focusing on universities of similar size and demographic profile and accounting for specific student housing and racial identities. Secondly, the results from extensive research should be used to develop a proposal for a modified Mizzou application that would available for download on smartphones. With an MU application already implemented, the modifications would would be both cost-effective and user friendly.
In addition to the application, we propose customization options within the settings section and a safety feature similar to SafeTrek, another application developed by an engineering student at this university. This personal safety application allows a student to walk across campus with his or her finger pressed firmly on the button on the home page. Upon releasing, students have a limited time to submit their password that unlocks the application before authorities are notified of their location and unsafe situation.
As we test the application in a beta version, we propose creating a user survey to gauge student use and their satisfaction with customizable settings for alerts, notifications, and safety features. Modifications should be applied and retested. Lastly, the university should implement as sign-up strategy for the application at new student orientations and counseling appointments for returning students. By implementing this, the university can directly monitor enrollment and usage rates, gauge feedback through in-app survey collection.
While this proposal does not correct this larger social issue, it is a step in the right direction of improving communication between authorities and the student body. We know how students prefer interaction and that these efforts are appreciated, these suggestions offers opportunity for improved clarity and efficiency of message delivery.
In conclusion, we think that MU Alerts, at the moment, aren’t as effective as they need to be. We have seen this through recent events over the past year. MU alerts has caused more harm than good and it is seen through our research group. MU alerts are seen to be needed by the students but they want them to be better, and so do we. We have both seen and experienced confusion from these alerts and it’s time to make them effective. They need to become more clear and if this is accomplished, they will become more effective. The safety of our student body and faculty is a major priority for everyone, let’s keep everyone safe. It begins with MU Alerts. Our goal was to find out the attitudes and effectiveness of MU Alerts and we have found that MU Alerts are not perceived positively and are not as effective as they can be. Hopefully through our research the University could see that and could make MU Alerts more effective for all.