Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Chester County District Attorney’s Facebook
The escape of convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante has been top news all around Chester County for the past two weeks. The event has been so heavily covered that it’s even garnered attention internationally; however, the university’s response to the current event has not been as publicized.
The Department of Public Safety offers the WCU ALERT system to the WCU community, providing emergency update texts to those who sign up. Alerts regarding this issue began at 2:13 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31, stating, “Timely Warning- Escaped Prisoner State and local law enforcement are currently searching for a prisoner who escaped…more” with a link to the alert system webpage and the full message. The system sent out six more alerts over the course of the 14-day search. The next message contained a link to Cavalcante’s photo, with the subsequent four alerts including a brief note that there was an update and linking users to the wcupa.edu website for further details. Once on the webpage, the alert appeared on a small banner at the top of the page with another link to the full update.
For those in a state of urgency during this tumultuous time, this convoluted method proved cumbersome and frustrating for many. The reasoning behind this switch, from a short synopsis linking to the full report to a nondescript message and a link to the university website, is unclear.
The final update came on Aug. 13, concisely stating Cavalcante’s detainment with no links to outside sources. The first and final alerts containing brief updates confirm that it is possible to clue users in on the topic within the length of a text rather than sending updates through various links.
Furthermore, these full updates appear to no longer be available aside from the final concluding update. If the archived updates are available, they are extremely difficult to locate, contradicting the purpose of emergency alerts.
One of these disappeared updates announced that “All buildings will require a WCU ID for access or a physical key” until the convict was captured. However, I and every student I’ve talked to about the announcement did not find any buildings to be locked during this time nor hear of anyone else needing to use their ID to unlock a building. This contradiction suggests that the university made this announcement for the optics of prioritizing students’ safety without actually taking the measures they claimed to.
Moreover, the university kept all classes in-person apart from Friday, Sept. 1 when classes were cancelled, whereas CBS News Philadelphia reported local schools Unionville High School and Kennett High School made all learning remote while the convict was still at large.
Presently, five days since his capture, discourse about the incident has slowed, but it still presents an interesting discussion as to whether or not the university should effectively implement further security protocols year-round and not solely in lieu of a major event. Fellow PA state schools Penn State and Temple, according to their respective university regulations, require students to show their student IDs upon request in not only residence halls but also academic and other university buildings. Yet, many WCU students living off campus without a meal plan rarely use their Ram Cards because they are so infrequently needed.
While the other state schools don’t have fail-safe security protocols, they aim to be more proactive as opposed to the mainly reactive WCU systems. By requiring Ram Cards more consistently at all academic buildings in addition to the residence halls and other on-campus services, we can get ahead of campus threats and make students’ safety a top priority.
Mackenzie Taylor is a fourth-year English major with minors in Civic & Professional Leadership and Communications Studies. MT947930@wcupa.edu