Although Tropical Storm Humberto didn’t amount to much flooding except a lot of hype last week, the actual alert system set up by the University did not amount to much in informing students of an impending disaster.
While Humberto did not cause any physical damage to the campus, it did manage to show the shortcomings of the UH Public Information Emergency Response in getting out pertinent information to students, faculty and staff. Some students said they had not received an alert through either e-mail, voice mail or text messages, while others said they had not even updated their information online.
While UH has been fortunate in not being affected by any major disasters in recent years, administration officials have not stressed the importance of updated information.
In the wake of extreme situations, such as the tragic example of Virginia Tech in April, communication within universities has become vital in mobilizing campuses – a lesson that the University has not conveyed to students clearly enough.
The UH administration has not stressed this fact to students, a number of which did not find out about the campus closure because they had not updated their contact information on PeopleSoft 8.9.
Since its inception this fall, the less than stellar performance of PeopleSoft also raises questions about the alert system’s capabilities in getting the word out during an urgent situation as it is where numbers are stored and used during emergencies.
In a random drawing beginning in May, the University gave away iPods to students that updated their contact information.
While the raffle was hosted under what can be assumed are good intentions, it trivialized the importance of emergency notifications less than a month after Virginia Tech made national headlines.
And since the University’s initial foray to get students to input contact phone numbers and e-mails, efforts have been next to nothing, especially at the beginning of the semester with the switch to a new, although problematic, software that has received complaints from students and faculties.
While iPods were used to attract students, the use of any prize to lure students to do an important task of having to rather than explaining how it works just defeats the purpose of it.
Rather than focusing on awarding students for a simple task, the University ought to just stress the importance of it. While PeopleSoft has its problems, knowing how it connects with PIER might make the transition easier, especially in unexpected situations.