On Tuesday, Sept. 17, Drew’s campus was put under a shelter in place order. The measure was activated at 11:19 a.m. with emergency text and phone alerts, with an email following at 11:25 a.m. The shelter in place remained in effect until 12:29 p.m. with text, phone and email alerts sent out to lift the order.
The Drew community received an email from President Baenninger at 1:08 p.m. the same day about the situation. The email explained that the measure was taken because of an unverified claim of a firearm on campus. The Madison Police Department was called and the shelter in place was enacted as they conducted their investigation on campus. “An event like today’s is extremely rare on our safe campus. But when the need arises, as it did today, we act accordingly. Fortunately in this case there was no threat,” said President Baenninger in her email.
During the shelter in place, many students reported not receiving the emergency alerts. The emergency notifications are currently an “opt-in” system, meaning students must register themselves through Treehouse in order to receive emergency messages. President Baenninger sent out an email at the beginning of the academic year with information about how to register for these alerts. Students can also search for “emergency alerts” on Treehouse to register for these alerts.
Christina (‘22), a student that filled out the Acorn’s survey, stated, “Emergency alerts shouldn't be optional. If you are a current Drew student - on campus or off, undergrad, grad or THEO - and faculty/staff, [you] should AUTOMATICALLY be signed up for emergency emails (text message/calls optional but preferred).”
Not only did many students not receive the initial notification, but food services employees in Commons and the E.C. did not get any alert or notification of what was happening on campus, and thus continued activities as normal. Various students also reported being in class and having to let their professors know about the shelter in place, as some faculty members did not receive the alerts either. A student who received the alert said, “I think professors need to go through some sort of training for these situations.”
One student, who received the alert, said that they “think the situation was handled appropriately. I think the biggest problem was [that] some students were not aware of what a shelter in place is and when it is used, which caused confusion on campus. The types of alerts should be addressed to the community and to any future incoming students to cause less panic and confusion.”
“Being clear about the situation to those on campus helps students decide which precautions to take. During the lockdown, I was texting friends who were still planning on leaving their rooms and going to class because the specifics of what was happening had not been provided,” stated Andrew Cardozo (‘20). “To not be clear about exactly what happened is irresponsible and places a greater emphasis on saving face than actually making their current student body feel safe.”
Joie Affleck (‘20), responding to President Baeninnger’s follow-up, stated, “I do not understand why the President responded in such a vague way that instilled MORE confusion and panic into the student body. This is also not the safest campus, in 4 years this is about my 3rd shelter in place. I think that Drew needs to be more forthright in letting students know they aren't IMMEDIATELY notified.”
That night, at 9 p.m., a meeting was held for Holloway residents in the basement of the dorm. Dean Merckx and Makana Agcaoili, the CRE of Holloway and Welch, were in attendance.
On the following Wednesday, Sept. 18, President Baenninger sent a follow-up email prompting the community to sign up for emergency notifications and addressing some of the concerns that had been voiced about the situation. According to the President’s email, no firearm was found on campus and the subject of the investigation has been banned from campus, although she mentioned no arrests were made.
Another concern brought up by students was that, due to Drew not providing education on emergency protocols to students, many international students did not know how to respond to the emergency notification. Additionally, students with foreign phone numbers cannot opt into the system. “I know that today's event was extremely rare on campus but no less frightening. As the HA of Pangea, my international residents expressed confusion on what it meant to shelter in place,” stated Violet Kimble (‘21) who also did not get alert. “English is not their first language, it was difficult for their classmates to explain what to do when many of themselves were confused about expectations.”
Drew’s Emergency Information website defines “shelter in place” as a protocol in which Drew community members are to stay indoors when it is deemed safer than walking around campus. During this protocol, students and staff are instructed to “await further instructions; do not leave until an ‘all clear’ alert is received.” Shelter in place can be implemented for a variety of reasons including in the event of a chemical or biological hazard or an extreme weather event. Other protocols that can be activated are lockdowns and evacuations, which also are explained on the website.