Students raise concerns about ISU Alert after shots fired on campus


Alex Halsted/Iowa State Daily

ISU Alert sent out this mass text message to all students today after the chase ensued and gunshots were fired. 

A large portion of ISU students received two emails on Monday. One was concerned with shots being fired on campus. The other was about comedian Dave Chappelle coming to Stephens Auditorium on Friday, Nov. 8.

Chappelle’s announcement made it to their inboxes, while the ISU Alert ended up in the spam folder.

Many students were concerned with the sufficiency of the ISU Alert system when shots were fired after a car chase on campus, Monday morning. At 10:17 a.m., Ames Police chased a stolen truck from Beach Avenue onto Central Campus and later six shots were fired by the police.

Some students who had signed up for texts or phone calls from ISU Alert said they did not receive them promptly, or at all.

Email alerts that were sent to students were received in their spam folders.

“The Iowa State IT Department is currently investigating why the emailed alerts ended up in spam,” said Angela Bradley, director of systems and networks for Information Technology Services.

“I still haven’t received anything today. I know that’s been a big running joke on Twitter … is that nobody has gotten anything or for people who did, it took 35 minutes,” said Colin Weaver, senior in global resource systems.

On Oct. 23, Iowa State sent out a test of the alert system to all 38,084 people who are signed up to receive alerts. John McCarroll, executive director of university relations, said the test was successful and worked without any errors.

Annette Hacker, university relations program director, said “just shy” of 100 percent of people signed up for ISU Alert received the messages on Monday.

ISU Alert began sending out alerts at 10:51 a.m. All emails were sent by 10:53 a.m. and text messages were sent by 11:04 a.m. Hacker explained that phone calls usually take longer, about a half an hour for them to all go out.

“Some people don’t answer, some hang up, others go to fax machines. If people have questions, they should go in and check their message format and contact information,” Hacker said. “If this had been a shooting or something else, police could’ve used the PA system to alert people.”

Bradley said this type of error has never happened before with the ISU Alert system since its creation in December 2007. Bradley also said the company that sends out the alert via email, Blackboard Connect, reported that all alerts had been received successfully. Iowa State uses Gmail as its email system.

“Our systems analysts have opened a case with Google to determine why the ISU Alert was classified as spam,” Bradley said. “It looks like there is a new feature in Google that will allow us to whitelist the ISU Alert email address so it never goes to the spam folder.”

Marissa Ham, senior in agriculture business, said she received a text message from ISU Alert at 10:53 am. However, Ham said she heard about the situation on Central Campus from students on CyRide before she received the alert.

“I was on the bus about 10:30 a.m., I got to campus around 10:45 a.m. and knew about it way before I got this,” Ham said. “I’m happy I got the alert; I just wish it would have been earlier. I wish they would have been smart enough to say, ‘Hey, this is going on. Don’t go to campus.’”

The alerts came even later for some students, such as Sam Haakenstad, senior in management information systems, who received both a text and email in his spam folder at 11:59 a.m. Much like Ham, Haakenstad wished he had received the alerts earlier.

Haakenstad felt that due to the late alerts he had gotten most of his information about the incident from Twitter. However, he was worried that tweets were an unreliable source and would have liked to have heard from the university.

“I understand they don’t always want to put the email out right away because the situation is developing but it would have been nice to know that something was happening,” Haakenstad said.

Some students, however, said they never received information from ISU Alert, although they were signed up. Weaver, who had received the test alert on Oct. 23, was set to receive both text message and email alerts. However, he said he received warning of the situation on campus from other sources since he never received Monday’s alert.

Weaver was not on campus at the time and was unaware of the chase and shooting until his friend, who attends Northern Iowa, tweeted at him concerning the situation.

“Just thinking about other situations that have happened on college campuses elsewhere in the country, if something like that were to happen on Iowa State’s campus, it’s scary that this alert system isn’t really functioning today,” Weaver said.