East Carolina welcomes back record numbers of students, enhances safety
(Aug. 16, 2007)
East Carolina University will welcome approximately 25,100 students to campus this fall, its largest enrollment yet.
A record number of first-year students have arrived to campus this fall. Projected enrollment figures are as high as 4,000 first-time freshmen. There are also 7,000 students taking distance education courses, 5,000 of whom will receive instruction completely off-campus. Final enrollment figures will be available after the close of the add/drop period, the 10th day of class, Sept. 1.
While East Carolina University has been bracing for its largest student enrollment population ever, campus officials have spent much of the summer enhancing safety measures. In addition to integrating comments from a student safety survey conducted in May, a new text-messaging system now enables students to register to receive emergency text messages on their cell phones.
Faculty members and staff will be able to register for the text-messaging service later this fall, after the implementation of a new records-keeping system.
The new text-messaging program will add to ECU’s existing emergency notification system, which includes campus-wide email notification, web site updates, emergency hotline, and pop-up instant messages on PCs.
“We are always looking for ways to better serve our students,” said Marilyn Sheerer, ECU interim provost and vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. “This is an excellent way to communicate more quickly with them.”
Incidents that would trigger a text message being sent by university administrators include school closings, tornado warnings, flash flooding, evacuations, and campus lockdown or other safety situations. In most cases, the text message will direct recipients to check their email or the ECU Alert web page for details.
“We know that there is no one means of communication that will guarantee that everyone receives an urgent message,” Sheerer said. “But text messaging will help us to communicate with the most people in the shortest amount of time.”
While text-messaging cell phones can be the fastest means of communication, the university cannot control when a cell phone service provider actually delivers the message. Tests of the system on campus have shown that message delivery time varies.
The results of the survey conducted this spring are helping ECU safety officials to create a safer and more stable campus environment. Michelle Lieberman, director of ECU’s Center for Off-Campus and Community Living, said the 3,917 survey responses she received from students last semester demonstrates a keen concern for safety on campus and in the surrounding neighborhood.
Eighty-two percent of the respondents, who are of a demographic mix that correlates with ECU’s larger student body, said they had concerns about safety on campus.
The aim of the survey was to determine what student perceptions were about campus safety; their own efforts to be safe; and whether they knew of or utilize the campus’ safety resources, such as ECU’s Safe Ride; ECU Student Patrol; and the Blue Light phones.
“In some of the written responses, there were a lot of misperceptions, issues about safety and parking,” Lieberman said. “For example, a lot of respondents thought traffic and parking workers were police. They’re not.”
Lieberman said the results provide campus safety officials, police, and the surrounding community members with a good direction for its future programs and offerings. For example, more areas of campus have been illuminated; the Parking and Traffic staff been issued different uniforms; students are now allowed to park on the main campus earlier (now 3 p.m. in many A1 lots, instead of 5 p.m.); more police officers are patrolling campus on bicycles.