More than 600 people have signed an online petition campaigning for emergency blue light telephones to be installed on Grand Valley State University’s Allendale Campus. Renee Vredenburg, GVSU student, started the petition—an idea that came from a group project in her sexuality, justice and advocacy class. She is planning to take the idea before student senate on Thursday, April 12.
These emergency blue lights are structured as a tall pole with a button that individuals can push to contact 911 and speak directly to a dispatcher. According to the petition, these emergency phones can also be used to report a suspicious individual or situation, not just for immediate emergency response. One of the main points of the campaign is that these lights will make students feel safer on campus.
Critics of these emergency blue lights—including the GVSU Police Department—believe they are unnecessary and too expensive. The installation can be between $1,000 and $7,000, and that is not including the cost of electricity for the light(s). With other campus resources geared toward keeping students safe, even in the way the campus is laid out, many people believe these emergency posts would go unused and would be an unnecessary use of students’ money.
According to a Holland Sentinel article, GVPD Chief Brandon DeHaan said they have decided against installing blue light phones in the past, as he doesn’t believe they will be effective on GVSU’s campus. He also cited the Rave Guardian app, a free app that allows students to call 911 with an automatic push button, as a more convenient solution.
In addition to the Rave Guardian app, GVPD also offers a safewalk program for on-campus pedestrians. With this program, students can ask the GVPD to send a student cadet to accompany them to their destination at night. In order to request a safewalk, students are directed to call GVPD dispatch.
Both of these resources are great, but they both require access to a phone. While most, if not all, college students have a phone, offering an additional connection to GVPD on campus is not a bad idea. If, for example, a student is walking late at night and their phone is dead, they wouldn’t be able to request a safewalk, nor would they be able to access the Rave Guardian app. They would, however, be able to press a button and reach GVPD with an emergency phone.
Campuses that have these emergency blue light telephones include Hope College, Grand Rapids Community College and Central Michigan University. Per a Central Michigan Life article, 89 calls have been made to the CMU police department since 2012. Sixty-three were made accidentally, were false alarms or were insignificant. Despite the low usage, students quoted in the article spoke positively of the phones as making the campus feel safer.
Ultimately, students’ feelings of safety should be a campus priority. If enough students stand behind these emergency lights, they should be installed on campus. After all, there shouldn’t be a price for students’ sense of safety, and these lights don’t cost that much in the grand scheme of things.