January 23, 2014

Email Slip-Up Scares Parents

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Cornell’s Division of University Communications mistakenly sent an internal emergency notification email to students’ parents on Thursday at 2:53 p.m., causing concern among parents, according to message recipients.

The email included a list of University officials to contact for the week of Jan. 24 through Jan. 31.

“The following persons are on call for the Media Relations Office, Dean of Students Office and Human Resources. All emergency situations and sensitive issues should be reported to them,” the email read.

A correction was subsequently sent to parents at 3:40 p.m. that day, asking parents to disregard the previous email. The message clarified that there was no campus emergency and that the email was supposed to be an internal communication to maintain the weekly list of on-call contact information.

“We apologize for mistakenly sending you a message this afternoon regarding Emergency Notifications. We are not experiencing a campus emergency, so please do not be concerned by the message,” Tracy Vosburgh, assistant vice president for University Communications, said in an email.

The email sparked worry among parents, however, after opening the message their alarm subdued.

“If I see the words ‘Cornell’ and ‘emergency’ together in an email of course I will open it, but then it was just a list of names and telephones to contact,” said Melissa Shaw, the parent of student Jake Shaw ’16. In general, Shaw said she was “grateful for the communication [from Cornell], because parents need to be aware of what is happening.”

She added that she thought that Cornell was “really good” at keeping parents in the loop about emergency situations on campus and that in the past she had also received text messages during campus emergencies. As she received no text message, Shaw didn’t think the mistaken email was “something [she] should be worried about.”