Chancellor Loftin speaks on MU Alert criticism

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COLUMBIA - Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin spoke Friday about the MU Alert System for the first time since a bomb threat at the MU Student Center Tuesday night. 

"Our police followed the protocol that we established quite some time ago," Loftin said. "Because they were able to contain the area [we did not send out an MU Alert]. Had we had a more general threat with that location, we would have put out an MU Alert immediately."

The chancellor said part of the problem was with social media, as students spread the information quickly before the University had the chance to determine what was true and what was not.

"We understand that social media allows for this word to get out almost instantaneously and the issue then is simply, is this the correct word?" Loftin said. "If people just see something happening and tweet about it, you don't know if it's going to contain the right data." 

The MU Alert system has been under much scrutiny over the past two weeks. On Tuesday, university officials decided not to let students know of an apparent bomb threat on campus. However, the school decided to call and inform students and professors of an armed robbery that took place in downtown Columbia early Sunday morning. This came a week after MU did not tell students about an incident that ended with police shooting the suspect in a campus parking garage until more than 30 minutes after the shooting.

Loftin admitted there were problems with the MU Alert system during the shooting incident.

"We did not do things properly with the shooting issue," Loftin said. "It was a matter really of a very fast time line and we didn't follow our proper protocols, and we've already acknowledged that mistake."

However, Loftin believes the university did follow protocol with not reporting the bomb threat this week to students.

"We did follow protocol, we did do things the way we decided to do it," Loftin said. "But we always learn every time we do an event like this where we have to respond to a crisis and we sit down afterwards and ask ourselves "what went wrong? What went right?  And how can we improve our process?"

Chancellor Loftin also said the university is considering changes to the MU Alert system. 

"Changes are being looked at right now," Loftin said. "We already got specific things in mind." 

Loftin did not say when the new changes would be implemented to MU Alert. 

Cathy Scroggs, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, says students should still feel safe on campus. 

"All of our students matter and their safety is our utmost of utmost importance to us," Scroggs said. "It's a priority. It's the priority. We're doing everything to make sure they're safe and to make sure the campus is safe for them." 

Scroggs, who was in a meeting with students during the time of the bomb threat, said no one she was with seemed scared when everything was happening. 

"They just proceeded with their business and it was kind of interesting," she said.