Student Senate, GVPD review student safety with night walks

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

Rachel Matuszewski

Grand Valley State University desire to ensure its students’ safety is a top priority in both on and off campus housing. Although GVSU’s campus does not have the notable blue phones most first division universities have, there are multiple resources available to students who need protection when walking at night. 

“For on campus, (the blue phones) simply don’t work” Student Senate President Rachel Jenkins said. “They don’t make anything safer. Just because of how they work, if we were to get them, we’d also have to pay to get them downtown, at the Traverse City location, at the Detroit location and, at all the satellite campuses, people just wouldn’t be using them.” 

Although the blue phones could be an option for off-campus areas, Grand Valley Police Department Captain Jeff Stoll says it is up to the landlords, as it is their property to manage.

For on-campus resources, students can call for a student cadet to walk with them at night, but with 12,000 beds occupying students who live off campus, many are concerned about their after-dark safety.

Members of Student Senate and faculty administrators addressed these needs by taking a walk around campus. They found most of the lighting to be up to par, only having a handful of suggestions. 

Solutions are being implemented in terms of changing the yellow street lighting to LED or for areas where the lighting is as bright as it can be but still renders pedestrians uncomfortable, asking GVPD to patrol those areas more frequently. 

“That night walk was a huge thing for us (in figuring out) where people feel the most unsafe.” Jenkins said. “It’s up to us to strategize what would make this area feel safer.”

Another resource available for everyone is the Rave Guardian app. This app allows students to set a timer and clock how long it will take them to get to their destination. They can add guardians to watch their walk, including friends, family or GVPD dispatch. 

While they are walking, a GPS tracks their location at all times. If the student does not get to their destination within the time they’ve allotted, their guardians will be alerted automatically.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a crime, it could be a medical issue,” Stoll said. “It tells us exactly where you are so we can respond to that location to determine what, if anything, has happened. Even if you don’t have someone walking with you, it’s like a virtual partner. Our dispatch has access to that information 24/7 if a student chooses to use it. You can use it off campus as well.”

As for students living off campus, Absolute Security, the security group which facilitates off-campus housing, will bring students to campus where GVPD can finish students’ safe walk off campus.

For more safety measures, Jenkins mentioned their frequent conversation revolving around sexual assault.

“We are really trying to focus on education and preventative measures.” Jenkins said. “(We are) trying to make people more aware of what our Title IX office does and how that works. This semester we are going to be doing our own campaign with condoms. We’re trying to encourage people to be educated more than anything else.”

The Student Senate Sexual Assault Committee meets in the Student Senate office every other Wednesday night from 6 to 8 p.m., and the Mental Health Committee meets on the opposite weeks. Students are welcome to attend these Student Senate gatherings to provide ways to improve education. 

“The conversation (usually starts) when we get (safety) alerts, but safety is a lot bigger than that,” Jenkins said. “It’s making sure you don’t leave your laptop unattended in the library and making sure you don’t have your headphones in at (1 a.m.) when you’re walking across campus. (We want to make sure) you’re paying attention to your surroundings.Yes, we are a safe campus, but there is also ownership in being a safe citizen and taking responsibility for yourself.”