More Than a Timely Warning

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Penn State students are more than familiar with the appearance of “Timely Warnings” in their student inboxes.  So familiar that these alerts have become almost spam-level.  The usual drill for most is to simply ignore these messages and send them to the trash folder; not because students aren’t concerned with the problem that Timely Warnings are attempting to address, but simply because these messages are so frequent and vague.

However, there are stories behind these warnings that most of us unintentionally turn a blind eye to. Behind these messages are massive injustices that students should be paying much more attention to.

These Timely Warnings are sent out in response to a report of a sexual assault. While they’re meant to provide information about the attacker, the categories listed describing the attacker are more often than not marked “unknown” — unknown height, unknown weight, unknown hair color, etcetera, etcetera.  These messages are meant to keep students safe and to protect those who have survived assaults themselves, but by offering little information they do almost nothing.

Valley sat down with a student who is accustomed to having these messages sent to her inbox in bulk. Penn State freshman, Sonali Gupta, talked to us about her feelings on the matter of these Timely Warnings.

“The warnings are always a tiny reminder that I should be protecting myself” says Gupta.  “And there’s always this moment when they’re sent to us of ‘oh my god, this is awful.’”

Gupta agrees that what the Timely Warnings are trying to bring awareness to is a very important issue and admits that like the majority of her peers, there’s rarely a time when she reads through the messages.

“It’s always so upsetting to know that there’s never any information here for anyone to really do anything about what happened. It’s horrible.”

As students and as peers, who want to take real action against sexual assault, how is that possible when the only resources that are being provided are always sent in vague, spam-like messages?  But living on a campus where sexual assault is becoming such an upsettingly frequent issue, the majority of Penn State students are fully aware of the severity, regardless of whether or not they open up these Timely Warnings.

Penn Staters shouldn’t have to read through the ‘unknowns’ listed to be conscious of what these messages actually represent.  And it shouldn’t take anything more than simply knowing that this is happening, that there are people getting away with these crimes and victims not receiving the closure that they deserve, to know that change is long past due.