Chancellor Victor Boschini has asked his staff to review why TCU’s alert system continues to be in English only.
Concerns about the system’s verbal warnings and text messages were first raised following a campus lockdown in 2017 when Spanish-speaking staff said they were unsure of what was happening.
A monolingual alert system has put some staff members in danger during emergencies because they have trouble translating it into their native language.
“I didn’t know this,” Boschini said after Friday’s meeting with the board of trustees. “This is the first I’ve heard of this. I thought we did that already because everything in print we put in Spanish and English.”
Some TCU Facility Services employees were reprimanded this past summer by their supervisor for not taking the proper safety procedure during a tornado drill.
When the tornado alert sounded, cleaning staff members were inside of Moudy North. Many rushed outside, unsure of what to do, said Angelica Acosta, a TCU facility services supervisor in Moudy North.
She said they thought the problem was coming from inside the building. Afterward, she said another supervisor complained about the response.
“He put them all along this wall and gave them a scolding,” Acosta said.
Acosta, who is from Durango, Mexico, has been working at TCU for more than 20 years. In those two decades, she’s been told multiple times that because she moved to America she needs to learn to speak English.
Adrian Andrews, the vice chancellor of public safety, said the TCU Department of Public Safety has received complaints from staff about their inability to understand the alert system, but a Spanish version wasn’t added because it’s one of 20 to 30 languages spoken at TCU.
“Do we exclude the Nigerians? Do we exclude the Italians or the French? No,” Andrews said.
But Acosta noted that Spanish is the predominant foreign language on campus.
“Spanish-speaking Latinos make up 80% of the staff, the only people that I know of that have made complaints,” she said.
Andrews said every building on campus has emergency coordinators who are trained by the Department of Public Safety to take care of their building when there’s a situation.
“They will always have a person who is an English speaker that can translate that message for them,” Andrews said.
Acosta said she doesn’t think this method is the answer because there have still been problems translating. She said there’s a supervisor who comes in once a month to give them training. Although they’re receiving constant training, she said this supervisor only speaks English.
“In a moment of crisis he’s not going to be here or calling us every time,” Acosta said. “And even if he were to, he would be talking to us in English because he doesn’t speak Spanish.”
Andrews believes that the less one has to process during an emergency, the better. Acosta disagrees.
“In a moment of crisis, the fewer things you have to process the better you’re going to respond,” Andrews said in response to the L.E.S.S. is More program the department has used to train staff.