Concerns rise over lack of TCU alerts in Spanish

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TCU’s alert system is meant to warn students, faculty and staff about any threat to campus– however, its messages are only in English.

When Tuesday’s alert about an active shooter went out, some non-English speakers were left wondering what was happening.

Adrian Smith, who works at the TCU Physical Plant, said he was with some groundskeepers when the campus was put on lockdown. One of the groundskeepers didn’t speak English, he said, so the other groundskeepers translated for him.

Maggie Hodes, a sophomore nursing major, said she was in the Mary Couts Burnett Library when the alarms sounded. She said a custodian unlocked a conference room for her and a friend. However, she said the custodian didn’t know much English and was not aware of what was happening.

“We looked panicked, so she unlocked a room for us,” Hodes said.

The university is reviewing Tuesday’s response and debriefing “from the incident,” wrote Holly Ellman, TCU’s associate director of strategic communications management.

“We always look for ways to improve communication with faculty, staff and students, and will consider all options,” she wrote.

 A worker on the house cleaning staff,  who asked not to be identified because she wasn’t authorized to speak, said she was in an office in Marion Hall when the alarms sounded.  Her first language is Spanish and she said at first it was hard for her to understand what exactly the alert meant.

“I was stuck in Marion for about 45 minutes with about eight of my co-workers and one student,” she said. “My daughter called me crying to make sure I was okay. We were all very scared”

Elise Shropshire, a junior strategic communication major, tweeted her concerns to the university. 

“A lot of our housing and groundskeeping staff are Spanish speakers,” Shropshire said. “I can’t imagine how alarming it must be to hear the sirens but not know what’s going on.”

Some professors also voiced concern about the lack of emergency alerts in different languages.

“TCU needs to make sure each and every member of the TCU community receives emergency alerts in their primary language,” Dr. Max Krochmal, the director of comparative race and ethnic studies, wrote in an email response.  

Shropshire said TCU should use the recent violence as a chance to improve.

“Often, we don’t think beyond ourselves until something prompts us to,” she wrote. “This is TCU’s opportunity, and it should be taken.”

Grace Amiss contributed to this article.