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Between the Lines: Twitter kept students in loop better than OU

Walking home from class, I received an Ohio University emergency text alert stating that an armed fugitive was somewhere around Station Street and Stocker Center. I quickly brushed it off — even though I live on West Green — and continued about my day … until I went on Twitter.

Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi’s Twitter account (@OHIOVP) flooded my feed with updates on the situation, updates I received no emails about until much later.

“President McDavis made decision as a precautionary measure as suspect is still at large. @ohiou will reopen tomorrow morning,” one tweet read.

Shocked at the continuing list of tweets from Lombardi, along with Interim Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones (@JennyHallJones) and the official OU Twitter account (@ohiou), I realized that this was no light matter.

However, I was more so shocked at the fact that most of my information about the issue was coming from Twitter. Lombardi, Hall-Jones and the OU accounts provided answers at a time when everyone was confused about the situation.

Though Lombardi tweeted that President McDavis closed the campus, my roommates and I questioned if we still had classes or not because no one had yet received an official email about the matter. The only emails sent were simply the updates posted on the OU Emergency Information website — information I had already known about due to the activity on Twitter.

My knowledge of canceled classes, of the closing of Baker University Center, Alden Library, Ping and of dining halls remaining open all came from Twitter. Had I not kept up-to-date on my Twitter feed, I would have been left in the dark about things that make up my daily routine.

What about the students — for there are some out there — who are not on Twitter and rely on university emails for information? They would have known only a portion of what I learned during the crisis and hours later, and that could be dangerous.

While Twitter allows for a rapid and instant flow of knowledge, updates only reach a limited audience and misinformation can often go viral. The Emergency Information website should have been updated more frequently so non-Twitter users would be kept up-to-date and have verified information on the crisis.

Professors still in the classroom were reluctant to accept information from Twitter about cancelled classes and a closed campus, whereas if it were from the official emergency alert system, it would have gone unquestioned.

In our world of advanced technology, an official university alert system should be able to be frequently updated with verified information just as quickly and efficiently as Twitter.

While I hope that OU never has to face a crisis like this again, if it does, I would like to be assured that all students and faculty members are informed.

Meryl Gottlieb is a stringer for The Post’s culture staff. Email her at mg986611@ohiou.edu

 

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