Our view: poor communication an issue for class cancellations

Michelle Huffman, sophomore interior design major, didn’t know classes were canceled Tuesday until a bus driver told her. Other students said they found out about the cancellations either through friends or because they assumed the alert meant classes were canceled all day.

And they weren’t alone.

The university sent out a FlashAlert message yesterday at about 5:40 a.m. informing students that morning classes had been canceled. The text message directed students to the Web for more updates and no others were sent. No e-mail alerts were sent.

A few hours later, the rest of the day’s classes were canceled. No FlashLine messages were sent then either.

It’s noble that university officials wanted to spare students from an information overload and possible text message charges, but they seem to have overlooked the complications their decision could cause.

If the policy is now to only send one message, what happens when classes at a regional campus are canceled in the morning, and then classes at the Kent campus are canceled after noon, or vice versa? When would students know to check online for more information?

And not all students have continuous access to the Internet – that’s why they signed up for the FlashAlerts in the first place. If they’re working, driving or not near a computer, how are they supposed to get the information they need?

Think about commuter students. They need more warning of class cancellations than a single, early-morning text message directing them to the Internet, especially if the weather makes for poor driving conditions. If they leave extra-early to be able to drive slowly, they may be long gone before the Web site is updated and so can’t check it.

The recent tragedies at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois were a stark reminder of the importance of communication on campus, and we’re glad the university established the FlashAlerts system as a method to quickly inform students of developments, be they weather-related or worse.

It’s a good system, and it works. But it seems there are several problems that still need fixed.

We doubt anyone was harmed by the absence of alerts Tuesday, but if the system is intended to relay information in a convenient fashion, it fell a little short of its goal.

After the snow day Feb. 12, Scott Rainone, assistant director of university media relations, said the university may re-assess how the system is used. If their re-assessment resulted in Tuesday’s shortage of messages, perhaps they need to re-assess their re-assessment.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.