On Monday, Sept. 16 the university community was alerted to two cases of sexual intercourse without consent. Both of the events allegedly happened over the previous weekend at two fraternity houses. The events spurred discussion not only about how to prevent and respond to sexual assault on our campus, but also the merits of the notification system used to alert the community to the alleged assaults.
So what are timely warnings, and when are they issued?
A timely warning is sent out when there is a threat the campus community needs to be aware of. The warning is generally sent out within 24 hours of the alleged crime, but can also be after more information becomes available to suggest the threat is ongoing. The primary purpose of the warning is to enable the community to protect themselves. Because of this, the warnings include some details of the circumstances of the alleged crime as well as tips to protect oneself. Whether a timely warning is sent out is decided on a case-by-case basis by MSU Police Chief Robert Putzke.
Timely warnings are part of a campus-wide emergency notification system requirement put in place under what is commonly called the Clery Act. Enacted in 1990, the act requires all colleges and universities, such as MSU, which participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their campuses. The act also requires universities to alert their community to serious threats to campus security.
In the past few years timely warnings have been sent out to alert the community of reported assaults, burglaries on campus and hate crimes occurring in the Bozeman community.
The other type of emergency notification available to UPD is an emergency alert, which is used when there is any immediate, ongoing and/or imminent threat facing campus. This type of notification would be used if there were a shooter on campus, a severe storm, a building on fire or any other urgent threat. This alert is sent out via text message (if subscribed) as well as email.
The primary difference between these notifications is imminence — if it’s something the campus needs to know about immediately, then an emergency notification is sent. If it’s important but not urgent, a timely warning is sent.
It’s important to note the warnings aren’t meant to frighten the community or portray that MSU and Bozeman aren’t safe. Instead, they are a necessary step to facilitate community safety.