Tweets, Snaps, and Streaming: An Analysis of the Implications of Social Media in the Aftermath of the UT-Austin May 1, 2017 Stabbing

Estrellita Longoria
Concordia University – Texas
Director of Residential Life

 

On May 1, 2017 at approximately 1:46pm, a student wielding a “Bowie-style hunting knife” meandered through a heavily populated area of the University of Texas at Austin campus. Chaos ensued when the more than a hundred students in the Gregory Gym area noticed the student with the knife casually walking through the crowd stabbing three people and murdering one. University police department secured the scene and apprehended the suspect in less than eight minutes. The campus community was directed to the university police department’s twitter; however, communication regarding the incident was not released until 3:15pm.

Fifteen minutes later across campus, on the north side of the university, spectators noticed a spray-painted sign hanging on the university’s communication building, reading “Tuition pays for bombs.” That evening Austin Police Department in conjunction with the university police department responded to a call within nine minutes in West Campus. West campus is populated by many fraternity and sorority houses; earlier that day, conjecture via social media folks speculated that the suspect of the stabbing was targeting white students involved in Greek life. Official communication dismissing the bomb threat on the north side of campus and dismissing the link between the found body and the attack near Gregory Gym was not published until 9:38pm.

Although the university was safe from harm minutes after the stabbing attack, the campus community remained in a state of chaos finding inaccurate information from hundreds of pages and profiles on social media. Although the University Police Department and the Austin Police Department should be commended and revered for their efficiency in responding to the attack, bomb threats and unidentified body, the campus community focused negatively on UPD’s Twitter inactivity. Given the current political climate regarding police officers and the rise of social media use by society, university police departments must stay on the precipice of communication via social media or the implications of the inactivity could prove detrimental to the relationship and authority of university police departments, and essentially the overall safety of the campus community.

 

Takeaways

  • Session attendees will receive an after-action report and lessons learned from a then employee and student of the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Attendees will receive data regarding the virtual attendance of press conferences and the consumption of news articles compared to the activity of tweets, snapchat snaps, and Facebook live streaming.
  • The presenter will also cover best practices for utilizing social media after responding to attacks.