Panic spread throughout Arizona State University Tempe’s campus after a threat was posted late Sunday evening (Nov 1) on a site called 4chan. This site allows users to post anonymously will no requirement for a user to create a username. One user caused quiet a panic through social media when he posted a status stating,
“Tomorrow this will be my target, 12:30 will be my chosen time. Filthy degenerate normies will be the first under my gun sights. All of the frat boys who get all the girls. They will all pay for alienating me. The Bushmaster M4 Carbine will be my weapon of choice…”
Students quickly began spreading the message through social media warning their fellow classmates of the potential threat. Thousands of students and concerned family members spread the message around campus. With all the hype and concern through campus, students began to seek ASU officials and police sources for information.
As an ASU student, you understand a common way to warn students is through countless email updates and explanations of the current situation. However, in the case of the potential shooting not a single email was sent to the student body. The only source of information was the ASU Police Department Twitter account. Arizona State University finally released an update Monday evening stating,
“The ASU alert system is relied upon for relaying vital information during crises or in response to credible threats. In this case, the University relied on social media to respond to concerns raised by the unsubstantiated Internet messages. Had this been an actual emergency or valid threat ASU police would have sent out instructions on what to do.”
Right after this message was released, students took their outrage to social media. With countless emails about bees on campus flooding students emails, but when it comes to a potential shooting ASU relies on social media to reach the students, they began to make a mockery on social media through jokes regarding the bees. Directly below ASU’s social media post by a student named Tommy Kissen generated nearly 500 “likes” from his comment “But are the bees cleared from the area?”
Students also took to other social media platforms to share their disdain over ridiculous amounts of emails on bees but nothing on a potential shooter. From Yik Yak, Twitter, Facebook, and even Snapchat, the students made their point clear.
As a PR practitioner for Arizona State University, would you take the same measures? Would you respond to students through social media or would you send an email? How would you respond to the heated criticism among the student body? What could ASU do better to inform its students the next time an incident happens — besides bees?