A Change in Appetite

It is football Saturday in East Lansing and one of MSU’s greatest and most storied rivalry games. The Spartans are about to take on U-M, and it is three hours from the kick-off. The 100-year rivalry has drawn generations of strong animosity from both sides, and I witness the Spartan fervor unfold. On the corner of Grand River Avenue and Abbott Road, hundreds of Spartan fans greet oncoming Wolverine fans with boos, jokes and derogatory chants. MSU students shot the obligatory “Go Green!” and “Go White!” as they walk past one another. Spartan alumni wear shirts that say “Appalachian Who?” in reference to U-M’s highly-referenced loss one month before to the Division I-AA school.
Fast forward to chilly January, when the glory days of tailgate haunt our memories as we bundle up for any outdoor adventure. When reflecting back on that memorable football Saturday, most Spartans will remember the nail-biting loss. What most Spartans won’t remember, however, is that East Lansing did win in one way that day, by opening up something Ann Arbor didn’t have: a Johnny’s Lunch franchise, adding to the plethora of cheap eating options in the downtown area. [fast11]
Johnny’s Lunch, a veteran New York hot dog establishment, opened its first franchise in the Midwest and drew approximately 3,000 visitors on that day. Johnny’s Lunch Franchise President George Goulson credited the restaurant’s opening day success not only to the football game’s attendees, but also to its 71-year-old initiative of quickly serving its tasty, inexpensive Johnny’s Hots, Big John Burgers and Johnny’s Cheese Fries to its customers.
U-M pre-architecture sophomore Jim Rund quickly took notice of their philosophy. “Fast food that is good for $5 or less is a winner, especially in a college town where students are looking for hot dogs and hamburgers,” Rund said. “I wish we had something like this at U-M.”
Many MSU students have fast food inklings similar to Rund’s and frequent restaurants such as Johnny’s Lunch. For human biology senior Brittani Slaughter, one of the most appealing things about fast-food restaurants is they – you guessed it – serve food quickly, which she says is great when she has an empty stomach. [jimrund]
Students also like fast-food restaurants because they’re cheap. In downtown East Lansing, Johnny’s Lunch sells its Johnny’s Hot Conies for only 89 cents, Taco Bell advertises its bean burrito for 99 cents and Buffalo Wild Wings sells its traditional wings for 73 cents a piece. With a declining Michigan economy and an increase in college tuition bills, MSU students are left with little money and therefore demand cheaper foods.
The city of East Lansing, however, is trying to entice more upscale restaurants to the area. According to Tim Dempsey, East Lansing community and economic development administrator, one of the city’s plans is to tear down the old Citizens Bank building on the corner of Abbott and Grand River. In its place would be new buildings for the MSU Museum, an upscale restaurant Dempsey said will be similar in scale to a Bravo or P.F. Chang’s, a smaller complimentary venue such as a coffee house and some residential homes. Dempsey said if the plan gets approved by the city’s planning commission in January, the new plaza could open by 2011.
An increase in upscale restaurants in the downtown area could disenfranchise some low-income students. According to the 2000 census data, the median income for a household is $28,217; there are 14,401 households in East Lansing. Dempsey attributes the low median income to the large number of MSU students that overwhelm the city’s housing market. If more prestigious, upscale restaurants served their high-quality foods in the downtown area, it could force some lesser-known fast food eateries such as Johnny’s Lunch out of business. Fewer fast-food restaurants would leave low-income students with less variety, which could damper their dining experience in downtown East Lansing.
Dempsey added, however, the 2000 census data also shows the family median income in East Lansing is $61,095, which he said is one of the highest in the state of Michigan. Dempsey said the new upscale restaurants will cater to families that have that kind of income, and emphasized the city’s initiative is not meant to disenfranchise students; it’s intended to widen the variety of dining experiences in East Lansing.
“Right now the market adequately serves the students,” Dempsey said. “You look at the number of fast food and fast casual restaurants that have pretty low price points – clearly we’re well saturated in that area. What we don’t have are restaurants that are more mid-range to higher-end casual restaurants.”
Students such as criminal justice and psychology sophomore Jeff Washeleski said a restaurant such as P.F. Chang’s will attract some college students, including those with tight budgets. [fast123]
“I don’t have money [and] I don’t think a majority of the college students do, but when I get the money, that’s what I would prefer to do,” Washeleski said. “I’d rather go out and have a good meal than just eat at the caf.”
While East Lansing residents may enjoy new upscale restaurants, the existing restaurants may not. As with any new restaurant, it has the potential to steal some of the established restaurants’ loyal customers, especially if their food is of seemingly higher quality. This could start price wars in the region, which would force some smaller, less-established eateries to shut down, such as Johnny’s Lunch; this would ultimately leave consumers with less restaurant variety. [timd]
MSU economics professor Jeffrey Wooldrige, however, said new places often bring in more people, so the downtown area’s existing restaurants shouldn’t fret about new upscale restaurants coming to East Lansing. He did add people today have less money to spend on food because of Michigan’s ailing economy, further adding to cheap food demand.
“If a restaurant comes in and it has something new to offer that others places don’t have, then it has the chance of actually increasing the number of people who want to eat out for a lunch or a dinner,” Wooldrige said. “But I do wonder especially in this economic climate how many new customers a new place like Johnny’s can pull in. I suspect it will draw people more from existing places.”
In fact, the upscale restaurants could help places such as Johnny’s Lunch thrive. According to Dempsey, if the plan for the plaza is approved, the city would add underground parking and an adjoining parking deck to the plaza, creating 600-700 new parking spaces for the corner. This would be good news for Johnny’s Lunch, since it currently has only one, 148-spot parking lot in the back. More parking spaces would allow the budding restaurant to attract more people from outside the area, a draw the restaurant desperately needs if it wants to become a recognizable franchise in Michigan.
So is downtown East Lansing a cheap, fast-food college town or an upscale, sit-down family area? It appears East Lansing officials will try to balance the two roles in order to attract the city’s college students and families. Whether the city succeeds in doing so, however, is a different story. East Lansing is traditionally a college town, and therefore residents such as zoology sophomore Brian Schori want to keep its college-town tradition alive, despite the city’s efforts.
“I don’t really expect it to change much,” Schori said. “The vacant buildings could become upscale, but everything that’s here now is mostly here to stay.” And whether Johnny’s Lunch embodies this college-town mentality and makes it through to see another crowded Spartan football Saturday remains to be seen.

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A Change in Appetite

It is football Saturday in East Lansing and one of MSU’s greatest and most storied rivalry games. The Spartans are about to take on U-M, and it is three hours from the kick-off. The 100-year rivalry has drawn generations of strong animosity from both sides, and I witness the Spartan fervor unfold. On the corner of Grand River Avenue and Abbott Road, hundreds of Spartan fans greet oncoming Wolverine fans with boos, jokes and derogatory chants. MSU students shot the obligatory “Go Green!” and “Go White!” as they walk past one another. Spartan alumni wear shirts that say “Appalachian Who?” in reference to U-M’s highly-referenced loss one month before to the Division I-AA school.
Fast forward to chilly January, when the glory days of tailgate haunt our memories as we bundle up for any outdoor adventure. When reflecting back on that memorable football Saturday, most Spartans will remember the nail-biting loss. What most Spartans won’t remember, however, is that East Lansing did win in one way that day, by opening up something Ann Arbor didn’t have: a Johnny’s Lunch franchise, adding to the plethora of cheap eating options in the downtown area. [fast12]
Johnny’s Lunch, a veteran New York hot dog establishment, opened its first franchise in the Midwest and drew approximately 3,000 visitors on that day. Johnny’s Lunch Franchise President George Goulson credited the restaurant’s opening day success not only to the football game’s attendees, but also to its 71-year-old initiative of quickly serving its tasty, inexpensive Johnny’s Hots, Big John Burgers and Johnny’s Cheese Fries to its customers.
U-M pre-architecture sophomore Jim Rund quickly took notice of their philosophy. “Fast food that is good for $5 or less is a winner, especially in a college town where students are looking for hot dogs and hamburgers,” Rund said. “I wish we had something like this at U-M.”
Many MSU students have fast food inklings similar to Rund’s and frequent restaurants such as Johnny’s Lunch. For human biology senior Brittani Slaughter, one of the most appealing things about fast-food restaurants is they – you guessed it – serve food quickly, which she says is great when she has an empty stomach.[rund2]
Students also like fast-food restaurants because they’re cheap. In downtown East Lansing, Johnny’s Lunch sells its Johnny’s Hot Conies for only 89 cents, Taco Bell advertises its bean burrito for 99 cents and Buffalo Wild Wings sells its traditional wings for 73 cents a piece. With a declining Michigan economy and an increase in college tuition bills, MSU students are left with little money and therefore demand cheaper foods.
The city of East Lansing, however, is trying to entice more upscale restaurants to the area. According to Tim Dempsey, East Lansing community and economic development administrator, one of the city’s plans is to tear down the old Citizens Bank building on the corner of Abbott and Grand River. In its place would be new buildings for the MSU Museum, an upscale restaurant Dempsey said will be similar in scale to a Bravo or P.F. Chang’s, a smaller complimentary venue such as a coffee house and some residential homes. Dempsey said if the plan gets approved by the city’s planning commission in January, the new plaza could open by 2011.
An increase in upscale restaurants in the downtown area could disenfranchise some low-income students. According to the 2000 census data, the median income for a household is $28,217; there are 14,401 households in East Lansing. Dempsey attributes the low median income to the large number of MSU students that overwhelm the city’s housing market. If more prestigious, upscale restaurants served their high-quality foods in the downtown area, it could force some lesser-known fast food eateries such as Johnny’s Lunch out of business. Fewer fast-food restaurants would leave low-income students with less variety, which could damper their dining experience in downtown East Lansing.
Dempsey added, however, the 2000 census data also shows the family median income in East Lansing is $61,095, which he said is one of the highest in the state of Michigan. Dempsey said the new upscale restaurants will cater to families that have that kind of income, and emphasized the city’s initiative is not meant to disenfranchise students; it’s intended to widen the variety of dining experiences in East Lansing.
“Right now the market adequately serves the students,” Dempsey said. “You look at the number of fast food and fast casual restaurants that have pretty low price points – clearly we’re well saturated in that area. What we don’t have are restaurants that are more mid-range to higher-end casual restaurants.”
Students such as criminal justice and psychology sophomore Jeff Washeleski said a restaurant such as P.F. Chang’s will attract some college students, including those with tight budgets. [fastfood12]
“I don’t have money [and] I don’t think a majority of the college students do, but when I get the money, that’s what I would prefer to do,” Washeleski said. “I’d rather go out and have a good meal than just eat at the caf.”
While East Lansing residents may enjoy new upscale restaurants, the existing restaurants may not. As with any new restaurant, it has the potential to steal some of the established restaurants’ loyal customers, especially if their food is of seemingly higher quality. This could start price wars in the region, which would force some smaller, less-established eateries to shut down, such as Johnny’s Lunch; this would ultimately leave consumers with less restaurant variety. [tim]
MSU economics professor Jeffrey Wooldrige, however, said new places often bring in more people, so the downtown area’s existing restaurants shouldn’t fret about new upscale restaurants coming to East Lansing. He did add people today have less money to spend on food because of Michigan’s ailing economy, further adding to cheap food demand.
“If a restaurant comes in and it has something new to offer that others places don’t have, then it has the chance of actually increasing the number of people who want to eat out for a lunch or a dinner,” Wooldrige said. “But I do wonder especially in this economic climate how many new customers a new place like Johnny’s can pull in. I suspect it will draw people more from existing places.”
In fact, the upscale restaurants could help places such as Johnny’s Lunch thrive. According to Dempsey, if the plan for the plaza is approved, the city would add underground parking and an adjoining parking deck to the plaza, creating 600-700 new parking spaces for the corner. This would be good news for Johnny’s Lunch, since it currently has only one, 148-spot parking lot in the back. More parking spaces would allow the budding restaurant to attract more people from outside the area, a draw the restaurant desperately needs if it wants to become a recognizable franchise in Michigan.
So is downtown East Lansing a cheap, fast-food college town or an upscale, sit-down family area? It appears East Lansing officials will try to balance the two roles in order to attract the city’s college students and families. Whether the city succeeds in doing so, however, is a different story. East Lansing is traditionally a college town, and therefore residents such as zoology sophomore Brian Schori want to keep its college-town tradition alive, despite the city’s efforts.
“I don’t really expect it to change much,” Schori said. “The vacant buildings could become upscale, but everything that’s here now is mostly here to stay.” And whether Johnny’s Lunch embodies this college-town mentality and makes it through to see another crowded Spartan football Saturday remains to be seen.

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Without Class Limits

In the late 19th century, punched cards, vacuum tubes and teleprinters infiltrated America’s upper class. Wealthy industrialists used these communication means to share important data. Since then, the development of advanced technology has made the U.S one of the most tech-savvy nations on the planet. Americans use millions of computers, cell phones and Palm Pilots to access videos, news articles, e-mails and web pages each day. Now, especially on college campuses, there is something else that can be accessed via the Internet: the classroom. [lead1]
A 2006 report released by The Sloan Consortium, an online education group, found 3.2 million college students took at least one online course during the fall of 2005, up from nearly 2.4 million in the spring of 2004. The increase sparked the creation of numerous computer software projects for enhanced-learning products. Global software companies developed classroom-hosting programs such as Blackboard and ANGEL that have transformed the ways in which information is obtained in the academic world. Tedious hours of taking notes and waiting in line for office hours have shifted to a culture of reading PowerPoint slides and chatting with professors online. The traditional learning environment appears to be evolving into a cyber classroom, so how does MSU stack up?
MSU currently offers more than 300 online classes to its graduate and undergraduate students. According to Gerald Rhead, the director of strategy and advisory services for MSU Global, an entrepreneurial academic business unit that develops and markets online institutes, programs, and services, most of those classes are either introductory or graduate level for three main reasons. First of all, professors are looking to maximize their efficiency. They see online classes as a way to offer introductory courses to MSU’s undergraduates without having to teach it live. Another reason is graduate courses tend to be part of degree programs that are offered online by MSU’s colleges. Since the degree is obtainable online, the colleges put most of their courses online as well. And the third and most important reason, according to Rhead, is “the faculty’s willingness to be able to explore and utilize the online modality of each course.”
Certain faculties are more hesitant about putting courses online than others, which affects the variation of the courses offered. “It’s a nice variety during the fall and spring semesters, but they need to expand over the summer,” said criminal justice senior Brenda Williams, who has taken IDES 140 and PKG 141 online. “A lot of people might want to take a few classes over the summer, but might not be able to afford to stay on campus during the summer. Or they might just want to take one or two classes, but don’t need to stay here for the whole summer, and they’ll be able to take the online course at home. So I think they’ll probably need [to offer] more classes over the summertime.”
Michigan State is one of the leaders in the Big Ten when it comes to the number of online classes offered to its students. According to information compiled by The Big Green from MSU’s Virtual University and other Big Ten university online course departments, MSU offers 305 classes, the 3rd most online classes in the Big Ten. Wisconsin-Madison and Penn State are the two schools that beat out MSU in the amount of online classes they offer. Rhead said the reason MSU is able to provide so many classes is because the university has done a good job of delegating its spending on online programs. “By catering to off-campus students, it’s increased the revenue base of what comes in, and a lot of that revenue goes into reinvestment of developing more courses,” Rhead said. “So I’d like to think that part of the reason we’ve been able to grow is that we’ve done good strategic, incremental investments.”
Michigan State uses ANGEL and LON-CAPA software to run its online courses. According to Brendan Guenther, the assistant director of MSU’s Virtual University Design and Technology, these systems are starting points for the course. Students can use these systems to access the class’s Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and other informational sheets. From there, the Virtual University, an online development division, can link the pages to Breeze presentations, recorded lectures and any other learning devices the professor wants his or her students to use.
[jacobs]According to Rhead, professors primarily select the online courses offered by MSU. When a professor wants to teach an online class for a course that is already offered as a traditional class, he or she takes his or her idea to the department and its dean for approval. If it’s an online class that has not been a traditional class, the professor then has to take it to both the college’s and the university’s academic governing councils and have the members of these boards approve the course.
Jenifer Barclay, a teaching assistant for Professor Alan Fisher’s HST 150 course last summer, believes professors are good at determining which classes should be taught online. “I think while professors might not have the same access to things as the administration would in terms of understanding sheer numbers, I think professors understand probably ‘what kinds of courses’ can be taught online because upper-level courses and courses that are more complex might be more difficult to offer online, and I think that’s where professors certainly have input in terms of what should be offered and what shouldn’t,” Barclay said.
Not only is the complexity of a course taken into account, but also the components of the class. According to Fred Jacobs, an accounting professor who taught Survey of Accounting Concepts online this past summer, some classes cannot be taught online because they involve too many intangibles. “If a faculty member does something special and unique in the lecture that requires some live interaction between the students and him or her, then I’m not sure if the online will be able to capture that,” Jacobs said. “But if a faculty member simply lectures and feels that’s the best way to get the material across to the students, and the class is relatively big, so there isn’t any interaction or much interaction, then I see no reason why an online class can’t work as effectively.”
Students opt for these courses for a number of reasons. Some are away on study abroad and can’t take a class on campus. Others want to get ahead, especially during the summer months. Most, however, have obligations such as work, children or sports that make traveling to the classroom difficult.
“I take online classes just to keep my schedule open for working, because it’s hard trying to work while classes are at crazy, random times,” said Williams, who works 15 to 25 hours a week at Macy’s.
One of many students’ favorite aspects about online courses is the convenience factor. Students like being able to log in and learn at their own pace, which is something traditional classrooms don’t allow. The obvious downfall of these courses is the lack of interaction with classmates. “Well, in hindsight now, I liked that I could do it anywhere,” said Samantha Suhajda, a lifelong education student who took Packaging 101 online during her freshman year. “But I didn’t like that you didn’t really get any interaction with other students, or even with the professor. If you were having problems, it was kind of hard to get to the professor right away, because it wasn’t like he was in front of you – you had to go to his office.”[laptop4]
While the university believes it’s offering a wide variety of classes, Rhead says that MSU can continue to improve its quality of online courses offered. Many students feel as though more 200 and 300-level courses need to be offered online. And some departments do not offer any online classes, including the Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures Department, the Religious Studies Department and the Spanish and Portuguese Department, to name a few.
“I think one of the areas that we can continue to improve on, and it’s something that we take into consideration a great deal, is really being able to map the [needs of the students]…to help students come up with a way in which they can manage their experience while they’re here,” Rhead said. “We’ve got undergraduate students that are working – some are holding down considerable jobs, sometimes full-time. And so it’s trying to provide more flexible ways for students to be able to complete programs in a timely and cost-effective manner.”
Guenther said MSU began offering online classes for the fall semester of the 1996-1997 academic year. The first classes, which were primarily telecommunication and computing courses, were not nearly as sophisticated as today’s classes. Most of the university population at the time used 56-kilobyte (KB) modems, which were very slow. As a result, the Virtual University used very little graphics with its software programs. Today, most people use a much faster 256 KB broadband connection, which enables the courses to be more graphic-oriented.
According to Rhead, the university only had about 800 online class enrollees during its first year. Last year, the university had about 13,000 students enrolled in online courses, including Anthropology 200, Criminal Justice 885 and Physics 231C, just to name a few.
[stuart]”It really has grown,” Rhead said. “It’s a coronation of growing programs, making good choices about what we put out there and certainly the general growth of online courses too. All those variables work together.”
Many students see the trend continuing to grow as well. “The economic trouble – it may be hard,” retail management junior Chris Bomer said. “You may have to work more and have less time traveling to class and being in class, so online classes may be more convenient.”
But will online classes completely replace traditional ones? Despite online classes’ increasing growth in popularity, there will always be students who thrive in a traditional classroom setting. “The majority of classes have it where live experience is critical for the learning that occurs,” Jacobs said. “So you can’t replace it with an online class. But I think there are other courses for which [an] online course will result in the same kind of learning that would result in a natural class.”
If online classes are not going to replace traditional classrooms, then what is their purpose? Most professors feel online classes will enhance the traditional learning process rather than take it away. It appears MSU has been doing just that, and then some. So while it will always be nice to meet new friends in class and have the occasional class crush, it’s good to know that if you have a full semester once in a while, you can roll out of bed, hop on your computer, and suddenly be in class.

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Sounding the Alert

When I think of emergencies, my mind flashes back to cartoon shows such as “Johnny Quest” and “Superman,” when sirens fired off walls and the characters were warned via video satellite of the immediate danger ahead. While such a system works for TVs and movies, it is not plausible with today’s mobile society. However, the MSU Police Department is now offering a new security service that has been deemed the new solution: the Emergency Text Message Notification System (ETXT).
That’s right, ETXT. It’s a security system that acts as its acronym is spelled: quick and pithy. If there were ever to be an emergency on campus, such as a tornado warning, active shooting or large chemical spill, students’ and faculty members’ cell phones would receive a short text message describing the emergency and any necessary precautions. The same message will also be sent out to students’ loved ones to inform them of the situation on campus, along with their e-mail. But this procedure poses the question – is text messaging really the best option?[ca1]
A 2005 survey conducted by market-research firm Student Monitor reported that 90 percent of U.S. college students owned a cell phone, which makes ETXT appear to be the best tool for getting students, faculty and administrators out of harm’s way. Most people carry their cell phones around campus in their pockets, purses and backpacks, making them easily accessible. And with a projected increase of text messaging over the next few years – 2.3 trillion text messages are expected to be sent by 2010, according to IT research firm Gartner – it seems like a sensible option.
ETXT is just “one more piece of the communications puzzle,” according to MSU Police Inspector Bill Wardwell. He said that while MSU already has reverse 911 systems (when the police will call all the phones on campus and have a recording play when the person picks up), emergency action teams and Web sites in place, the police department felt it could do a better job of reaching students during an emergency.
[pq1]”We felt that we were missing the ability to reach the student,” Wardwell said. “And (with) cell phones being extremely popular and also text-capable with student-age individuals, we thought that this was probably a pretty good way of at least getting the word to a number of people in class.”
And the system is cost effective. According to Wardwell, since ETXT was developed internally, it costs the police department “almost nothing” to send text messages. Students and loved ones receiving ETXTs won’t be charged as well, unless their phone plan charges for text messaging.
Many students agree the ETXT system should be used, especially in the wake of shootings at Virginia Tech, Columbine and other school-related tragedies. “Considering the events of the Virginia Tech shooting last year, I think it’s a very good idea for the police to have a system set up like this so people can know things very quickly,” communication freshman Kristine Kendall said.
And MSU isn’t alone. This program seems to be a national trend among colleges, including Virginia Tech. Many of these schools are either looking into, currently developing or already have their own e-text system. Many schools have the reverse 911 systems and other precautionary aids as well.
Any new system, however, has its flaws. The MSU Police Department’s Web site admits that while it can send millions of text messages at a time, it “cannot guarantee the reliability of the wireless networks.” Bad wireless connections will sometimes cause messages to get either delayed or not show up at all, preventing important information from reaching members of the MSU community.
Text messages also come with a price tag. While the cost per text message is usually low (it ranges from 10-15 cents, according to costhelper.com), some people choose not to have text messaging as a service. While the university allows these people to receive text messages via e-mail, such a system isn’t practical when students are away from their computers. These circumstances pose another important question: Do these people lose out on a life-saving tool? Entomology professor Christina Difonzo does not think so.
“If you got enough people on campus that got this, then they would get a phone call and tell their friends anyway,” she said. “If half the people on campus had this service, they would turn to people in class and say, ‘This just happened.’ So it seems like if there was a critical mass of people, it would be almost like everyone would know about it.” [cell2]
If university officials want the majority of the MSU body to sign up for ETXT, people first have to be aware of it. According to Wardwell, about 10,000 people have signed up for the service as of Sept. 14. With approximately 45,000 students on MSU’s campus alone, it’s safe to say that a lot of people are either apathetic or unaware of ETXT. This notion brings up additional questions. Despite university efforts to inform the MSU community about the service, why haven’t more people heard about it, or signed up for it?
Students can register for ETXT by logging onto the MSU Police Department’s Web site and following the steps given on the home page. For most people, the time component does not defer them for signing up. Rather, most students neglect to register either because they forget or are not aware they can. “I haven’t had time…I really didn’t hear much about it yet,” Kendall said. “I’ve only heard a little bit word of mouth, and I’ve seen a couple of signs, but really, it hasn’t struck me as something significant yet.”
But mainly, people’s ignorance of ETXT comes down to two words: poor marketing. There are very few fliers, posters or any other informational sheets around campus describing the new service. Most of the professors and faculty that know about ETXT haven’t mentioned it to their classes, either because they forget or assume their students have read President Lou Anna K. Simon’s e-mail regarding ETXT’s capabilities. And there have not been any follow-up e-mails by MSU officials since Simon’s initial e-mail, which may have caused many students to forget about the service.
“I actually deleted it first,” Difonzo said. “Then, I think there was something in the newspaper about it, that so many thousands of people in five minutes had signed up, and I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I should go back to that e-mail,’ because I was kind of curious, so then I actually read the e-mail.”
ETXT, however, is a relatively new service, which may be the reason so few MSU students have registered for the program. President Simon e-mailed the MSU community on Aug. 27, so the program has only been in effect for slightly over a month. Because it is so early in the program, the university does have a chance to revise their promotional strategy and get as many people signed up as possible, despite missed marketing opportunities at the program’s launch.
[wardwell2]One way is to up the advertising. According to Wardwell, university officials and the MSU Police Department considered running ads about ETXT in a few of the local media outlets, as well as printing a message on tuition bills, prior to President Simon’s e-mail. While Wardwell said the department hasn’t used any of these methods yet, he did say the police department will reconsider the options at its next ETXT meeting with the university.
MSU could also target next year’s freshman class. Some of the professors suggest informing incoming freshmen and their parents about ETXT at the summer Academic Orientation Program (AOP). This process ensures both parents and students are aware of the security precautions taken at MSU. At the end of AOP, the university could then have tables for students to sign up for the program. If the university got at least half the freshmen and their parents to sign up, then MSU would be a one step closer to having the entire MSU community participate in ETXT.
So is ETXT the best way of protecting students during an emergency?
“We don’t claim it to be the best,” Wardwell said. “I don’t think there is any one best way, so we take a multi-prong approach for getting information out.”

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