TrojansAlert fails to inform students

At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, USC students received a TrojansAlert text message warning of police activity in the area, quickly assuring students there was “no threat to USC” and that the “area [was] safe.” The Los Angeles Police Department activity, which the TrojansAlert did not expand on, involved a shooting in which a victim was killed and the shooter fled from police on the Metro. However, students who rely on TrojansAlert to keep them informed would have remained unaware of the gravity of the situation — especially those riding on the Metro at the time, not to mention the countless students and faculty members who walk past this intersection on their way to and from campus.

Tuesday’s shooting is just the most recent example of TrojansAlert’s lack of transparency and failure to serve its purpose to keep students aware of safety hazards and incidents in the community. The service has gone too far to sugarcoat activities in the local community, neglecting its duty to inform students in the effort to prevent unnecessary alarm.

When wide-eyed freshmen are first urged to sign up for TrojansAlert at orientation, the download comes with an expectation of awareness and security. Registering with the service on your cell phone signifies taking safety into your own hands — literally. But in order to be safe, students need to be made aware — and TrojansAlert is not keeping us aware.

A quick look at the text messages sent by TrojansAlert this past week makes it appear that the incident at Jesse Brewer Park on Tuesday was of little importance. According to the messages, it didn’t involve USC, and the area was safe, but students were urged to keep away from the area. This is not the type of language that should be used to convey a fatal shooting happening in our own backyard.

Moreover, the fact that the victim and shooter were not affiliated with USC — which the TrojansAlert text messages stated twice — does not make the actions surrounding their encounter less relevant to the student population. For a university that claims to be strongly rooted in the local community, this is a rather quick dismissal of a significant occurrence just a stone’s throw away from the gates of campus. USC student or not, we are all residents of Los Angeles, and some of us even live in close proximity to the intersection of Vermont and Exposition Boulevard where the shooting took place.

In fact, the Department of Public Safety told the Daily Trojan shortly after the incident that the TrojansAlert was sent not to warn students about the gravitas of a situation involving a shooter right outside the southwest corner of campus. Rather, the message was sent to notify that the LAPD investigation led to increased traffic at the intersection. According to DPS, there was no direct threat to USC.

TrojansAlert should not be sent with the intent of notifying students of an everyday inconvenience like increased traffic. They should be sent with the intent to make potentially dangerous situations of and around campus known so students can react accordingly. It seems counterintuitive that increased traffic would be more pressing than the details of a fatal shooting at an intersection, not only across from campus but also on many students’ routes to and from campus.

It seems TrojansAlert prescribes an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. As long as a USC student isn’t involved and it isn’t on campus, the details of the incident are somewhat superfluous. This just is not the case. The community around USC is not just an urban landscape illuminating the brick-clad fortress of USC — it’s our home. If our home is threatened in any way, we should be notified.

Daily  Trojan Spring 2016 Editorial Board