September 21, 2019

Text Alerts: Too little, too late

Eva Connors is a senior journalism major and copy editor for The Journal.

By Eva Connors

Texting rocks. It’s one of my favorite technological advances. It’s easier to ask somebody a question via text message than call them and make awkward small talk. As the years go on, texting has become more and more useful. Businesses, organizations and events have started jumping on the text-info bandwagon. Beyond Facebook and Twitter texts, I get messages straight to my phone from 105.7 The Point about upcoming shows, STLToday about breaking news, and of course, Webster University about school closures.

The Webster text message alert system is a genius idea. I signed up my first week of freshman year, and once I returned from my year abroad I made a point to sign up my new phone, too. Like many students I’ve encountered, my phone is always on me, making texts the perfect vehicle for getting through to me.

At 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 1, I received a text from Webster. Classes were canceled! What a surprise! At least it might have been, had every other school in the area called classes off the night before. Some schools called off Wednesday at the same time, and the rest announced their closures throughout the evening.

But Webster? Webster waited until 5 a.m. to announce Wednesday’s day closure, and waited until noon to cancel night classes. Missouri State University announced their Thursday closure at the same time.

In a way, I understand what Webster is trying to do. Instead of jumping the gun and cancelling classes, they want to see what the weather looks like.

If it’s not that bad, we can have school after all (which is what we’re paying for anyway, isn’t it?).

Once they cancel classes, that’s the end of discussion, there’s no retracting a cancellation. But when two major highways are shut down and almost every business and school has already announced their intent to keep the doors shut, I see no real reason for Webster to hold out.

What makes the university think students will show up when everything around them is closed, anyway?

If anything, Webster should be one of the first to announce class cancellation.  The percentage of students who commute, particularly the ones who have a commute of half an hour or more, is significant.

If Webster Groves high school, whose residents are all in the local area, doesn’t even think their students will safely make it to class, how in the world are people from all over St. Louis County supposed to? Even Washington University, who next-to-never closes, called off their classes before Webster did.

But believe it or not, Webster has actually gotten better at giving us advance warning.

I remember freshman year not getting the snow day message about an hour and a half before class started. They used to wait until 3 p.m. to decide on night classes. For a commuter campus with a wide radius of residence, a piddly few hours is simply not enough warning for many students.

Those who use public transportation need more warning than that — I’ve heard of people waiting on campus for their night class for hours just to find out it’s cancelled due to inclement weather.

Look, I love the text message alerts. There’s nothing better than waking up and finding out school is cancelled, except maybe finding out the night before that school’s cancelled so you don’t have to worry about waking up.

I’ll acknowledge that things have gotten better. A notice at 4:30 a.m. is certainly preferable to a notice at 7:30 a.m., but if other schools can make the call and announce their decision more than five hours before classes are supposed to start, what’s stopping Webster?

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