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Saturday, May 08, 2021

Four blue lights to be installed on Fraternity Drive

<p><span id="docs-internal-guid-048937f9-7fff-55e1-483d-3a8e3404726d"><span>Samantha Gildea, a 20-year-old international studies and Russian studies double major sophomore, speaks to a crowd of about 200 protesters Tuesday afternoon during the protest for blue lights on Frat Row. The protest took place in Flavet field. Gildea is an organizer for the protest and a member of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women, the only female fraternity located on fraternity drive.</span></span></p>

Samantha Gildea, a 20-year-old international studies and Russian studies double major sophomore, speaks to a crowd of about 200 protesters Tuesday afternoon during the protest for blue lights on Frat Row. The protest took place in Flavet field. Gildea is an organizer for the protest and a member of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women, the only female fraternity located on fraternity drive.

After weeks of student activism, there will be blue lights on Fraternity Drive.  

University Police announced Friday that four blue light emergency phones will be added on Fraternity Drive, which is the only area on UF’s campus without them.

This follows a march of about 200 students demanding for blue lights to be installed there.

Blue lights are non-dial outdoor telephones that can instantly reach UPD and share the location. UPD, along with the UF Division of Planning, Design & Construction, UF Emergency Management and the Office of the Director of Physical Security, are working with an outside contractor to get the lights installed.

“We would like to thank the students who demonstrated the care and concern they share for the safety of our community by bringing to our attention the need for these BLPs,” UF Police Chief Linda Stump-Kurnick wrote in the statement.

The cost of the new blue lights are unknown. The Alligator made a records request regarding how often blue lights are used on campus and where.

UPD could not be reached for further comment. UF Division of Planning, Design & Construction did not have blue light installation as a current project on their website as of Sunday night.

Before the Sept. 17 protest,  the UF Interfraternity Council released  a statement that said it does not oppose blue lights anywhere on campus. UF Student Government senators originally denied motions of adding the lights because Greek organizations were not consulted

Originally, UPD advocated for the GATORSAFE mobile application, which functions as a mobile blue light, rather than supporting the addition of physical ones.
 
Student Body President Michael Murphy also encouraged students to use GATORSAFE in a letter to the editor, and said physical lights were a “tremendous waste of student fees.”
 
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“Painting the picture that students are left without recourse in an emergency due to the absence of a blue light isn’t just false, it’s dangerous,” Murphy wrote.
 
In the Fall SG elections, Inspire Party, stressed the further installation of blue lights as a platform point. Inspire won the majority of the open Senate seats.
 
To Samantha Gildea, a 20-year-old UF international studies and Russian studies sophomore, the action was a means to an end. She, along with protest organizers Mark Merwitzer, Alfredo Ortiz, William Zelin, Emily Hyden and the Gainesville chapter of National Women’s Liberation, said the issue should have never been as divisive as it was.
 
“In this process, so many people have made me feel like we were asking for too much,” Gildea said. “‘You want a blue light? Well, it’s expensive. You want a blue light? Well, there’s 357 already. You want a blue light? Well, we have an app.’ It made me feel so small.”
 
After the protest, Gildea said she and other organizers were in contact with UPD spokesperson Maj. Brad Barber who said the department was “moving forward with initial planning,” on Sept. 24. Three days later, UPD announced the four new lights on Fraternity Row.
 
Gildea said the protest’s goal was to have one light installed. The installation of four lights is beyond her wildest expectations. She said this is an example of Gators coming together to make tangible change.
 
“I’m so grateful to not only the students who came out but the students who listened,” Gildea said. “There were so many allies. It took my breath away.”
 
Mason Mellott, a 21-year-old UF psychology junior, said he was hit by a car on Fraternity Drive while biking at night in November 2017. He considers blue lights a universal symbol of emergency services and said seeing one there would have prompted him to seek help from police.
 
Now that blue lights will be installed on the dark road, students will have more of a chance to get help during emergencies, he said.
 
“Every emergency is a valid emergency, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment,” he said.

Samantha Gildea, a 20-year-old international studies and Russian studies double major sophomore, speaks to a crowd of about 200 protesters Tuesday afternoon during the protest for blue lights on Frat Row. The protest took place in Flavet field. Gildea is an organizer for the protest and a member of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women, the only female fraternity located on fraternity drive.

A map of blue lights across UF campus.

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