Feb. 21, Webster University experienced a power outage due to an off-campus fire that caused an Ameren UE power failure for several parts of Webster Groves. While the power outage is of no fault of Webster University’s, the reaction time and communication efforts (or lack thereof) were. It is a perfect example of the up-and-down nature of Webster’s communications this year.
During the power outage, there were no Webster Alerts sent to students and Webster’s official social media accounts did not acknowledge the power outage until 1:30 p.m., roughly nine hours after it began. Even Webster’s facebook page for Housing and Residential Life failed to acknowledge the issue until 2:30 p.m. that day.
For students on campus, this is not acceptable. Students took to social media to ask fellow students what buildings had power, if Wi-Fi was down, when the power would be back up and if any food was being served on campus. There was almost no information to be found on any of Webster’s social media accounts until 9 hours had passed.
The lack of contact and information from the university has been an ongoing issue this academic year. During the fall semester, the university failed to alert students when shots were reported a few blocks from campus.
While the reports were determined to be false, students at the fall Delegates’ Agenda brought up the lack of communication as an issue, citing the incident. Last week, a highly anticipated Black Lives Matter event was cancelled with little information given as to why. Students were excited for this event and had little to no information as to why the event was so suddenly canceled.
Only rumors and a vague statement about the event being cancelled at the behest of the speaker’s agency was offered to students.
Webster has to be more open with students. It is the duty of the university to be open, transparent and responsive to its constituents.
That is not to say Webster has not done well in some situations. Last week’s snow day was an excellent example of how campus-wide communications should be done. Information came out in a timely matter and students could feel like they were in the know. In any case, big or small, this is how it should be done. Webster’s social media accounts and Webster alerts should be descriptive and timely.
Another great example of Webster using communications well was when the university sent a Ready@Webster alert to students about a rash of thefts in February.
Furthermore, The Journal believes Webster did some things well during the blackout. Marletto’s did well by providing students food during the power outage. However, communication was not clear and some students missed out on the opportunity to eat.
While there have been highs and lows this year when it comes to communication, Webster needs to consistently provide up-to-date information to its students.
Nearly nine hours of little to no information left many students scrambling for food options, power and a space to do homework. If Webster has a crisis on campus, they need to communicate. Residents should not have to pry information out of scattered social media accounts to figure out when their lights might turn back on.