A message from President Schlissel on March 16 emergency alert

To All Members of the Campus Community:

Over the past week, student leaders and other members of our community, the university’s leadership team, and I have spent a great deal of time examining and discussing the March 16 reports of an active shooter on campus and how the campus responded. While many aspects of our response went according to plan, we uncovered deficiencies in the activation of our emergency alert system and the distribution of accurate information and instructions that will need to be corrected immediately.

Though we later found no active threat to our campus, the fear is no less real. I have heard from many students, faculty and staff that the reports of gunfire were terrifying. The traumatic incident affected and continues to affect many people in our community in a deeply personal way.

Members of our community experienced vulnerability and distress in the moments during the incident and long afterward. It is heartbreaking that we live in a world where violence and the possibility of violence too often leaves individuals and groups of different backgrounds feeling targeted. In this case, the reports of gunfire occurred during a vigil on the Diag mourning the victims of the hateful, Islamophobic attacks in New Zealand.

I have heard nothing but praise for how our students and other community members acted during those initial chaotic moments. Our Division of Public Safety and Security (DPSS) reported that attendees followed instructions, helped each other and followed guidelines from training – all in the interest of safety. I also heard that many students, faculty and staff did not know or remember what do to in these circumstances and that more frequent training and updates would be of value to them.

I again thank our responders in DPSS, along with our external partners in law enforcement, and everyone who helped ensure safety and offered support. DPSS officers went into Mason Hall and other buildings to search for a possible gunman, not knowing what they would find. Their training and bravery are worthy of our respect and gratitude. They didn’t give the all-clear until they conducted a thorough search.

I also appreciate everyone who has helped us to reflect, heal and learn in the days since the emergency alert and response. Student groups and leaders in our schools, colleges and units have organized events to offer support. Vice President Harper and I are among those who met last week with several groups of students, many of whom were on or near the Diag that Saturday, to hear about their experiences and concerns and to get their advice about how to be better prepared. Professionals from Counseling and Psychological Services hosted special sessions and continue to offer support for students. Rackham Student Government had a town hall last week and Central Student Government is having another in conjunction with our Division of Public Safety and Security on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Michigan League Ballroom.

Part of the purpose of these events and our own work involves continuing to analyze U-M’s emergency response. We must always strive to be better, safer and more supportive in every way possible, and the feedback we have heard from many of you is a critical component of what we have learned from the incident. There is no doubt we must do more to keep our campus safe, and I assure you we are working on changes that we can implement now and going forward.

We are examining all aspects of the emergency alert process – from the modalities we use to communicate to how you sign up for alerts – and have begun an awareness campaign about what to do during an active attacker scenario. As part of this effort, it is important that everyone view our digital training resources, which include safety tips and our active attacker training video. This is part of how each one of us can contribute to being prepared and staying safe. DPSS is working to schedule in-person training sessions, as well.

DPSS uses multiple methods to communicate with the campus in the setting of an emergency including email to all umich.edu addresses, text messages, phone calls, links from our homepage, alerts via the Michigan and DPSS apps, and the DPSS twitter account (@umichdpss). Please recognize that the only authoritative information during an emergency is communication coming from DPSS. There were many false reports during the episode on the 16th spread via social media from non-authoritative sources that contributed to our collective fear and uncertainty.

I am asking for your help, too. To make sure everyone is able to receive emergency alerts in every way possible, we need you to sign up for emergency alerts:

  • Input your mobile number into Wolverine Access from DPSS’ emergency alert page. We can’t send you emergency alert texts and phone calls without this crucial information.
  • Download and install the Michigan app.
  • Download and install the U-M DPSS app.

The safety and well-being of people in our community is my foremost concern. I commend everyone who has reached out to offer support to others or to provide suggestions on how we can improve our processes.


Mark S. Schlissel