A number of students filed a permit to hold a protest on Fraternity Row tomorrow in support of installing an additional emergency blue light in the area. These students claim the additional blue light will improve student safety and reduce instances of sexual assault on campus, but these students are misinformed.
Installing additional blue lights on campus would be a tremendous waste of student fees, as universities across the country are removing blue lights due to their lack of use and outdated technology. Blue lights first appeared on college campuses in the ’80s and ’90s when pagers were a primary form of communication. Since that time and the proliferation of mobile phones, emergency blue lights have become obsolete at universities. TheUniversity of Colorado Boulder,University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and theUniversity of Connecticut have all taken steps to begin removing blue lights from their campuses entirely. Put simply, emergency blue lights are not being utilized at UF or at other universities, and the cost of upkeep is a serious detriment to other safety programs. Moreover, if the installation of a new blue light costs as much as the last blue light installed on campus, it will cost $22,000 of your student fees.
While the students organizing the protest are certainly well intentioned, their rhetoric may in fact worsen campus safety. By stating that additional emergency blue lights are the only way to improve campus safety, these students create the impression that there are not additional resources and programs on campus working to keep students safe. In fact, UF Student Government already funds the GATORSAFE app, which functions as a mobile blue light right inside your pocket. It even includes additional features not available at emergency blue lights. Instead of utilizing scare tactics and doomsday scenarios, and instead of painting campus Greek life as rife with sexual assault, these students would be well served by advertising more effective campus safety programs such as the GATORSAFE app.
The GATORSAFE app provides many safety-focused resources including a mobile BlueLight which sends the user's location to University Police and initiates a phone call to UPD dispatch. The main "emergency contacts" feature allows the user to call or text 911, chat with UPD, access non-emergency contact information and utilize the mobile BlueLight. Additionally, the app has a feature called "Friend Walk" that allows students to send their location in real-time to a friend until they reach their destination. There are many informational and preventative features included in the app as well. This includes information regarding what actions to take in specific emergency situations, a platform to report a crime tip to UPD, a safety toolbox to enhance student safety, the ability to view UF Alerts, access a variety of transportation services as well as a campus crime map and contact information for U Matter, We Care. The GATORSAFE app can be downloaded and installed via the app store of all mobile devices. It also goes without saying that all students can simply dial 911 in an emergency.
It is my goal that all students are aware of all of the safety programs working to keep them safe. 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. Protestors should not let Student Government election season get the best of them and should instead work together to keep students informed of all the programs SG works hard to implement for students.
Michael Murphy is the UF Student Body president.