It has been more than two weeks since the death of UNK senior Dan Poly and students are still dealing with the tragedy of losing a fellow Loper.

For UNK officials, Poly’s death should result in a review of the UNK Alert System and how it’s to be used. The communication blunder which occurred in the wake of Poly’s death should serve as prime example of what not to do.

There is a time and place for technology like the UNK Alert System. The system should be utilized in situations where students are in immediate danger, or need to be notified about campus critical campus news. The content of the alerts should be completely accurate and carefully monitored.

With emergency vehicles swarming campus, like they did after the discovery of an unresponsive Poly, students needed to be assured they were in no danger. In this situation the alert system can be a valuable tool in suppressing the fears of concerned students.  However, it is unnecessary to speculate or make assumptions, like those made in the emails sent to students, when a professional has not confirmed those speculations.

The email should have confirmed that: “a student was found unresponsive, but that there is no danger to other students. And that: “the death in currently under investigation and more information will be released when made available.”

In the second email released to students, Poly’s name was released as the deceased student. Again, the email claimed that Poly had died as a result of an “apparent suicide.”

In a story published the following morning by the Kearney Hub, County Attorney Shawn Eatherton concluded that Poly’s death was accidental and communicated that the press release sent out from UNK officials in “incorrect.”

UNK needs to thoroughly review the policies and procedures associated with the alert system. No information that cannot be confirmed by professionals should be released to students. The inaccurate report may have tarnished Poly’s image to those who did not know him personally.

Chancellor Doug Kristensen should directly monitor the content sent out on the alert system, and insure that all information being distributed is accurate. The individuals behind the messages sent out to students should have a firm understanding of how the technology is to be used and have detailed instruction on how it’s to use it.

With official reports refuting messages sent out by UNK, a new message should have been drafted to confirm that Poly’s death was in fact accidental and that UNK apologizes for the inaccurate reports previously distributed.

Nothing can be done to heal the psychological wounds which accompany the loss of our fellow student, but we can make strides to assure that this error in communication never happens again.

Advertisements