Student behind petition for emergency lights to speak in front of senate

GVL / Emily Frye   
Officer Seth Beelen places an individual in the police car on Saturday October 28, 2017.

GVL / Emily Frye Officer Seth Beelen places an individual in the police car on Saturday October 28, 2017.

Rachel Matuszewski

Recently, Grand Valley State University student Renee Vredenburg created a petition to install emergency blue lights on campus, citing the chance to make the campus more safe. Now, Vredenburg is preparing to propose the installation of emergency blue lights to student senate on Thursday, April 12. 

The idea came from a group project in her sexuality, justice and advocacy class. The students began researching why GVSU hadn’t installed these devices years ago. Dozens of college campuses across Michigan have installed their own emergency lights, no matter the size of the campus. 

According to the Holland Sentinel, the question has been brought up over the last 20 to 30 years, but the GVSU Police Department does not see a need for it on campus given the availability of the Rave Guardian app and the safewalk program. Vredenburg disagrees. 

“Grand Valley has a lot of safety built into the way they use GVPD and (even) the way they lay out the campus,” Vredenburg said. “But I think this is an extra thing that should be on our campus. I don’t think the other ways we provide safety are accessible to everyone. Not everyone has a smartphone. That’s saying dangerous things only happen to specific people. 

“It doesn’t seem right to me. Having something that is physically everywhere on campus makes things safer. I think when there is the allusion of safety not as much crime tends to happen.” 

She imagined that if a student were away from the group on a tour and felt unsafe, they wouldn’t know GVPD’s website. Plus, in her opinion, actually going to the website, finding the number and calling it would waste precious time. 

With the proposal, Vredenburg is not only referring to sexual assault, but general campus danger as well. 

“Not only are they emergency phones, but they are actual lights, so putting them in a place like by the bridge where it is dark would not only (illuminate) that area, but it would provide an emergency phone in that area,” Vredenburg said.

Vredenburg understands student senate’s concerns about the cost, as the installation can be between $1,000 and $7,000, and the electricity for the light is extra. As she will be presenting at one of the last senate meetings of the year, she hopes it is a project that can be revised over the summer. It would also provide time to search for grants to lower the cost. 

“This could prevent instances from happening that cost. (Even though) there’s not a money cost, (people’s) emotional toll could change things,” Vredenburg said. “I hope they respond well because this has been brought to them before. I hope they are willing to see what we can do.”

In an interview with the Holland Sentinel, GVPD Chief Brandon DeHaan also questioned where to put these lights, as there are campuses in Allendale, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Muskegon and Detroit.

“Having them in one location doesn’t quite make sense, but I think having them in one location and starting here is the best because (it’s) where (the) majority of the student body is,” Vredenburg said. 

It’s on Us as Lakers member Maddie Vervaeke agrees with GVPD’s concern. Although the lights may give students a representation of safety, she believes GVSU’s closed campus defeats their purpose. She said if a student were in a dangerous situation walking alone at night, it would be much quicker and easier for them to pull out their phone and activate the app. 

“You want everything to be quick,” Vervaeke said. “You want fast access to (help). I know a lot of people want (this to happen), but I don’t think they realize it’s not the best option. People don’t realize we already have it. It’s probably not what people want to hear. It’s not a matter of (administration) not caring about the students. They already have a better system. It’s not going to work as well as everyone wants it to work.”

Over six hundred Lakers have already signed the petition to install emergency lights on campus. Readers can decide if emergency blue lights are needed at GVSU by signing the petition at