Crying wolf: OUPD’s alert system erroneously reports ‘shots fired’

By Postie Editors

“The Oakland University Police Department has received reports of shots fired on campus. The suspect is currently at large and the campus is on lockdown.”

If you received that voicemail message — as almost the entire Oakland community had — how did you respond?

If you’re like us, you panicked.

A glitch in the OUPD message alert system mistakenly sent out an erroneous pre-recorded message during a routine test at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Well, OUPD, it worked. You have our attention.

While we understand mistakes — we make them too — one of this magnitude should not have happened.

Somewhere, someone screwed up.

OUPD claims the error was made when the pre-recorded voicemail was automatically attached to a text message sent by an outsourced company.

That just doesn’t add up.

The false alarm created sheer panic.

We heard reports of classes going on lockdown and saw students’ reactions on social media websites. We called our parents to inform them we were still alive.

The error has been broadcast on many local and national news outlets. It’s not exactly a favorable headline for OU.

We’ve been told steps have been taken to make sure the mistake is not repeated, but that statement seems lacking, frankly. Don’t try to cover it up. Be transparent.

Not everyone was notified of the mistake, either.

Sure, some people received correction messages, and Oakland did post explanations on Facebook and Twitter, but that’s not enough.

The Oakland Post finds it appalling that it took “university officials” 24 minutes to release a corrected message to campus phones. So much can happen in that brief span of time. Had the original message been true, 24 minutes could have created unprecedented chaos campus-wide.

And nowhere on the Oakland home page does it acknowledge a shooting. There’s just a two-paragraph explanation that the mistake will not happen again.

Instead of “university officials,” a named spokesperson for OU should say “we’re sorry and we regret alarming parents, students, faculty and staff.” And they should be held responsible.

We also question how students will react when there’s a real threat on campus. It’s like the story of the boy who cried wolf — will we really take the next OUPD alert seriously?

Campus shootings are horrific, life-altering events and they need to be treated as such.

Consider Virginia Tech. Consider the University of Texas. Imagine the terror that went through every parent’s mind when the Columbine shooting became national news.

As students, we’re taught to be mindful. We need to double — sometimes triple — check our statements. But also, we have the flexibility to make mistakes. We’re still learning.

And as students, we’re also taught to take tests seriously.

The only real lesson this test has taught us? Exercise caution and take responsibility.

The staff editorial is written weekly by members of The Oakland Post’s editorial  board.