WSW: WMU President Looking For A Better Alert System

Mar 28, 2016

Western Michigan University Administration Building - file photo
Credit WMUK

Western Michigan University President John Dunn says the university could have done better informing students during a February 20th shooting in Kalamazoo. 

A committee made up of faculty, staff and students is working on recommendations to improve the university’s alert system (note: WMUK is involved in a sub-committee on communication).

Dunn says there are complex questions in considering how to best notify students about an emergency. He says Western needs to be “harsh and hard on ourselves” and accept responsibility for improving their system. But Dunn worries about blasting too many messages to students. He says there’s a danger in students choosing not to receive alerts if they are regularly receiving messages that they don’t find relevant.

Western Michigan University is one of 50 in the United States that has launched a new survey related to the campus climate on sexual violence and harassment. Dunn says “the goal is zero tolerance.” But he acknowledges that it’s “a high bar.” He says it’s important to make sure that people know that reports are taken seriously. Dunn says that may lead to an increase in reports of sexual violence and harassment on campus. 

The university’s Board of Trustees recently approved a new five year strategic plan. Dunn says Western has never had an official strategic plan for the university “as a whole.” He says such a plan should always be “a work in progress.” But Dunn says a strategic plan might be helpful to a future president in spelling out the university’s thinking to that point. Asked if that means his retirement might be imminent, Dunn says he’s happy with his job, and has not set a date to step down.

INSIGHT into Diversity recently awarded Dunn and 26 other college and university presidents its “Giving Back” award. The publication which focuses on campus diversity cited Western’s programs, such as the Seita Scholars for youth from the foster care system. Dunn says the university should be working to create opportunities to everyone. He says innovative programs can help “open the door.”

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