Date of Graduation

Fall 2011


Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice


Criminology and Criminal Justice

Committee Chair

Bernard McCarthy


Under federal law (the Clery Act), Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) now have a legal responsibility to notify students in a timely manner about campus emergencies. Failure to comply may result in financial penalties from the U.S. Department of Education. Virginia Tech was fined $55,000 for failure to quickly warn their students of the shootings that occurred on its campus in 2007. Though IHEs are now being held responsible, there has been little guidance in identifying effective methods and in implementing timely notification procedures. This case study assesses student perceptions of the use of social media by universities to deliver emergency alerts. Social media have emerged as a real-time communication tool widely popular among college students. To examine the use of social media for emergency notification, a literature review and interviews with professionals in the field were conducted, and a survey instrument was developed. The survey instrument was then used to study student use and perceptions through an email survey distributed to the student population. The response rate was 9% of the student population of 20,472 who received the survey. The results revealed that a vast majority of students are in favor of using social media for emergency notifications by IHEs. There was much support for the current alert system and a Facebook emergency notification page. The results of this study provide IHE emergency management officials with empirical evidence to guide decisions about adopting methods to notify students during emergencies. The implications of this research will help IHEs notify students sooner, thus saving lives, and aid in avoiding financial penalties.


social media, social networking sites (SNS), emergency management, university communication, crisis notification, institutions of higher education (IHEs)

Subject Categories

Criminology and Criminal Justice


© Natalie Lou Hanrion

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