Information Quality More Important Than Speed

Standard

This article was published in the Daily Trojan online and in print in February 2013.

The Department of Public Safety at Curry College, a small liberal arts college in Milton, Mass., waited nearly a week to notify students about a group rape of a highly intoxicated college student, according to The Boston Globe.

Curry College did its students a service by waiting for the three suspected aggressors to be arrested on Jan. 25 before notifying students of the assault. An informative email was sent on Monday, Jan. 28. Because of the weekend delay, the administration was suspected of suppressing the news and neglecting to warn the community about danger.

Some might feel scared at the notion that the administration was attempting to keep information from them, but one must take all of the facts into account. Gang rape is a brutal crime and the college has the job of protecting everyone at the school — including the victim. Catching the perpetrators is the first priority and the college’s response was completely appropriate for the circumstances.

Curry College properly waited to release factual information about the rape until the men accused of the crime were arrested so that students would not be misinformed. In this 24-hour news cycle, where information is released every minute on various online platforms, accuracy and truth become undervalued, allowing inaccurate information to flood the public. Hasty delivery of news often distorts correct information and compromises an institution’s credibility as a trustworthy news source.

It is better for the public to be well-informed than to quickly be given improper information, especially on a campus, where students depend mainly on the college’s news releases for information regarding safety.

Accuracy takes time, and Curry College administrators had to vet the email to ensure its quality and accuracy; thus, the email was delayed for several days. If there is no immediate threat, colleges should not frighten its students with emergency alerts.

Even if the email had been sent late on Friday or during the weekend, the college could have easily been suspected of releasing information when the community was least likely to be attentive to administrative releases.

It is also important to consider that Curry College ensured the community’s safety first by having the accused arrested, instead of preoccupying students with possibly inaccurate news, news that would not have given students enough information to be useful. Frances Jackson, the college’s spokeswoman, said Curry properly followed ongoing procedures of the city’s police force first and released a warning email to the community later, when danger had already been dissipated.

The college administration’s actions would have been far more worrisome if the suspects’ arrests had not been ensured, or even worse, if the crime had been hushed altogether without any information released.

Though speed of news delivery is important, it should not overcome the need for accuracy so that news sources can remain reliable. Colleges should be encouraged to take preventive and reactive measures toward public safety first and inform their communities shortly thereafter.

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