It takes less than one minute to register for Harvard’s emergency alert text messaging service, “Message Me,” but almost 40 percent of the University’s student body has yet to sign up.
As of Monday, 12,127 students had signed up to receive text message alerts from the University in case of a campus emergency, according to University spokesman Joseph Wrinn.
Harvard’s enrollment rate is still well above the service’s national average of 39 percent.
The national average is skewed due to colleges that recently adopted the text messaging service and have yet to begin enrollment, according to Bryan J. Crum, a spokesman for Omnilert, the company that provides the service.
Boston University (BU), which uses a different company’s alert service, boasts a 94 percent enrollment rate because signing up for the service is a mandatory part of the students’ registration process. BU began using the service at its Charles River campus last September—one month after Harvard adopted the program—following the success of the alerts at its medical school.
“If you don’t register your cellphone number, you don’t register for next semester,” said Peter Fiedler, vice president for administrative services at BU. “This has had an amazing effect.”
The other six percent of BU students do not have cell phones or cannot receive text messages, according to Fiedler.
Harvard does not require its student body to register for the text messaging service.
Wrinn declined to comment about Harvard’s decision to use voluntary enrollment, but when the alert system was first implemented in August, University officials said that publicizing the initiative would be largely left to the discretion of Harvard’s individual schools.
Crum said that the mandatory registration model is effective at increasing student enrollment in the program.
Other schools, including the State University of New York at New Paltz, require students to sign up for the service in order to have wireless Internet access on campus, Crum said.
“When you pop open your laptop in the cafeteria, you have to register your number to receive alerts before you get wireless access,” Crum said.
Harvard launched the campus-wide text message alert system following the Virginia Tech shooting last spring and has recently reemphasized its importance in light of the shooting at North Illinois University last month.
The March 6 story, "60 Percent of Students Enrolled in Emergency Text Message Program," misinterpreted data regarding the level of enrollment at Harvard in the emergency alert text message service. While the story reported that 12,127 students signed up, in fact, the 12,127 number refers to the number of students, faculty, and staff. The assertion that nearly 60 percent of students have signed up is thus incorrect.