The right to be informed

Why Riverside City College kept students in the dark

alert system online

Illustration by Madison Moore

What is the threshold that justifies an emergency? How close does a crime need to occur to the Riverside City College campus, or any campus in the district for that matter, for it to be worthy of student notification?

This is the question that came to light Feb. 29 at RCC when a lone gunman shot another male, after getting into an argument at a bus stop, in Riverside’s historic White Park, located 1.3 miles from the main City College campus.

The incident, which was reported around 11:19 a.m., sent the victim to the hospital with the shooter getting away either on foot or in a car and no physical description could be provided at the time.

Faculty and staff received an email detailing the situation at around 12:42 p.m., an hour and a half after the fact, however, students did not receive any kind of notification from the college or the district concerning the incident. Even days after the shooting students are still just finding out about it from various local media outlets.

This is very worrying. Granted it wasn’t a mass shooting or an act of terrorism and the campus police that was dispatched to the site determined there to be no imminent threat to students, but if the incident was close enough for our campus police to respond then why was it not considered close enough for the students to be alerted?

“If you said it’s a mile away and they haven’t caught the guy then yes that’s something to be worried about, especially with everything that’s been going around with active shooters and schools,” said RCC student and campus employee, Cynthia Espino when asked if she was worried about the incident.

We’re not calling for a lockdown anytime something dangerous happens off campus and we don’t want to see a panic started in a day and age where everyone is on edge but it is that very reason that we as students demand to be alerted to incidents like these, we’re the ones who have grown up in a time of school shootings and massive acts of domestic terrorism. We’re the ones who have had the fear ingrained in us. We deserve to be told. We should be able to trust our college to keep us updated with any potential threat.

Morning classes generally release at 11 a.m., if not earlier. That’s plenty of time for a student to have caught one of the many RTA bus lines that pass by the school and make stops across from White Park. Without alert it’s entirely plausible an RCC student could have walked into a potentially dangerous situation.

The lack of a notification comes as more of a shock when one takes into consideration that the college has an alert system in place that it’s pushed students into joining to receive emails and text messages in case of emergencies.

In the last six months, the college has sent out three text alerts through the college’s alert system. Two were test alerts and one was a flash flood warning text.

Why have this system in place if it is not being used effectively or efficiently? Starting a panic is always something to be wary of with recent attacks like the one in San Bernardino in December nevertheless, it would not have been hard to include in the alert that there was no direct threat to anyone on the main campus and that the White Park area should simply be avoided.

Especially considering the gunman was not apprehended until days later and there were few to no details available about his appearance or the incident at all.

As a general consensus most polled professors around campus agreed that it was best not to alarm students, however, none would go on record with this sentiment.

When students around campus were interviewed, however, an overwhelming majority felt like it was something that they should have been told about, some saying they thought it was wrong they had to find out from outlets like Facebook and not through the school.

“(I) heard about it an hour ago through Facebook… I have not received any text messages or emails. I don’t think that many people know, I mean from what I saw there was a couple of hundred likes on Facebook but that was about it.” RCC student Kaylene Aragon said.

Conversely at the University of California Riverside, reports came in of a possible active shooter situation Mar. 7 after a loud bang from the freeway startled students. UCR campus police responded differently than RCC’s however, praising student reactions to the scare and saying it’s best to safe than sorry, a stark contrast to how RCC students were treated.

Isn’t the RCC alert system meant to service the students? Not wanting to cause a panic is admirable but we could have been told in the alert that there was no immediate threat to the campus.

We could have been trusted with the information.