Students’ Health Endangered by Sonoma State University Administration

It was irresponsible that SSU administrators failed to warn students about contaminated water as a result of a broken well pump.

In the age of communication platforms such as Nixel Alerts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat and What’s App, Strategic Communications missed their chance to immediately convey a public health emergency to students. Instead, an archaic email was sent at 11:00 a.m. on April 8, 24 hours after the problem was detected.
There was no campus wide alert text sent to students, faculty or staff. Instead, Facilities Management walked around informing departments to make and put up signs. Not all signs were created or distributed equally on campus at water fountains or bathrooms. Not all departments were aware of the contaminated water.
Email is not the first type of media students check in the morning. By 11:00 a.m. students had already taken showers, eaten food and filled their water bottles at filling stations on campus. Nevertheless, Culinary Services continued to prepare and serve food throughout the day.
Currently Strategic Communications is in charge of the positive image of community, government and public information. They are listed as managing internal and external communications but nothing is outlined as student relations or student communications. So, why was this department in charge of communicating this emergency to students?
SSU could have been better prepared to take care of this public health situation.
On April 9, an email detailing areas of free water bottle allotment were available at only three locations for limited hours; unfortunately, each department was limited to six bottles. Moreover, it was soon discovered the plastic water bottles had labels dating back to 2013.
As a result of the vague emails students in dorms were afraid to take showers and communicated their concerns through social media and in class. Some students resorted to lathering up and bathing in the campus pools.
Restaurants in Sonoma County are not permitted to operate with a food license if they do not have hand washing stations available. On campus food continued to be prepared and served even with the lack of clean water for hand washing. Students are on a tight budget, especially freshmen with a mandatory meal plan that costs more than their dorms. In addition, they have limited choices because there is no way to boil water in their dorms.
On Wednesday, April 10 water restrictions were lifted after a second round of testing. It is unknown how often the SSU well system is tested throughout the year. It is also unknown if a plan of action has been drawn for a future event of a public health emergency on campus. Students hopefully will be able to know if a problem arises through a media outlet that’s part of this millennium. SSU claims to put students first. This needs to include health needs as well as educational needs.

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