Civil liberties groups question anonymous reporting tool

McDonald said TNCC officials have received about 30 Awareity reports in its nine months of operation. The system, he said, likely would not singlehandedly prevent a major security breach, but a few tips are better than none.

“Compared to knowing nothing and doing nothing, I’d rather have some information that we can act on,” said McDonald, a member of the college’s threat assessment team. “I think any [college] would feel that way.”

TNCC and other Virginia campuses that use Awareity have set up web pages showing students how to submit a report. TNCC links to the Awareity page from its homepage. McDonald said most reports have had a name attached, including every one logged by a faculty member.

Shaw said compiling a list of searchable complaints and reports stored in Awareity’s archives would allow campus investigators to spot trends before they culminate in disaster.

“Lots of schools don’t have the ability to connect all the dots,” he said, adding that out of more than 500 filed Awareity reports in the Oklahoma City Public Schools system, none have been deemed false reports. “The right information doesn’t get to the right people at the right place at the right time. That’s something schools really need to deal with right now.”

Rappahannock Community College (RCC) in Saluda, Va., converted to the Awareity platform after its former online reporting program proved ineffective, requiring students and faculty to create their own narrative instead of plugging in an incident’s time and place.

Kim McManus, vice president for administration at RCC, said the new system’s ability to store information and send it to members of the school’s threat assessment team—along with security officials and mental health workers—made for a much more reliable reporting platform.

“We were doing as best as we could before, but it was so much more unwieldy,” he said. “Before, we had to manage it the same as if someone dropped a sheet of paper on us. That wasn’t going to work for us long term.”

McManus said a student who abused the anonymous reporting option would be disciplined, although he wasn’t sure what consequences such a violation would render.

“We frown upon using it to make a false statement and getting back at someone,” he said. “That’s entirely inappropriate.”