Students and residents who live in the surrounding areas of the University of Memphis are concerned about what warrants a Tiger Text.
The U of M's emergency alert text messaging system, which was put in place in 2007 following the Virginia Tech Massacre, is used to keep students abreast of their safety on campus. However, for many students, it’s been unclear exactly what Police Services deems as necessary to report.
“We tell parents and students, especially at orientation, that we don’t use Tiger Text for anything other than what we think is an ongoing threat to our campus community. That includes students, faculty and staff—not just students,” said Bruce Harber, the director of Public Safety and Police Services.
He added that many people want to use the system for news updates.
“There’s a tendency for people to want us to use it as a news service,” Harber said. “If something is going on, they want to know about it, and that’s not what it’s designed for. We want to be very cautious when we use it. We don’t want to overuse it so it loses its impact.”
According to that policy, the U of M must report crimes to students when two conditions are met. First, the crime must be listed as “arson, aggravated assault, criminal homicide, robbery, sex offense, or any crime determined to be a hate crime is reported to the University Police (UMPD) or other campus security authorities.” Secondly, the crime must be considered “by the University to represent a continuing threat to students or employees.”
In the past, however, not all crimes have been reported to students, which has been a hot topic for the University’s newspaper.
In 2012, a registered sex offender was arrested for allegedly raping a woman on campus. The offense was not immediately entered into the campus’ incident log, which is required by the Clery Act, and students were not alerted until The Daily Helmsman reported on the crime.
Harber later responded to the incident, telling the Helmsman that it was not reported via Tiger Text because it was not viewed as an ongoing threat to the campus after his arrest.
Despite the University’s clear policies on when they will alert students with a text message, many students claim they would feel safer knowing about more crime.
U of M junior Josh Tucker, who lives a block from campus, said he's enrolled in the service and relies on it for his safety at home as well as on campus.
"In a way, Tiger Text has helped me feel safer," Tucker said. "But a lot of time it just reminds me that I don't live in a safe area. However, it is a useful tool."