Students Turn to Apps, Student Activism to Boost Campus Safety

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guardian_uclacampusSeptember is National Campus Safety Awareness Month, and as concern for safety on campus increases, colleges are turning to new applications, programs and other methods to protect students.

One app in particular, offered by Rave Guardian, is popping up on more college campuses.

Rave Guardian partners with universities to provide the free app, which is offered to not only students, but faculty and staff as well. It’s currently used by more than 100 colleges and universities, but that number continues to grow each week, says Todd Miller, vice president of public safety services at Rave Guardian.

The app appears on the user’s cell phone home screen after it’s been downloaded. Students, faculty and staff can then press a button to reach university police or call 911. Users can also use Rave Guardian to communicate with university police via text.

“Anyone on or around campus who might be hiding from someone or needs to be quiet can text us messages and even photos,” says David Dugatkin, chief of police at State University of New York at New Paltz. “We see the messages on our computers and can give them directions. It also maps them on the GPS so we know their exact location.”

Another feature of the app is its “guardianship” program.

On Rave Guardian, a “guardian” is someone designated by the user to watch out for him or her over a period of time in which both are out and about. Guardianships are mutual, so the user also watches out for his or her guardian.

Members of the campus community can select a guardian for a certain timeframe—anywhere from five minutes to eight hours, Dugatkin says. Users can select students, faculty or staff members, and even university police as their guardians.

Pairs check in with each other at the end of the timeframe, and if one fails to check in, the app sends the person’s location to the guardian so that the guardian can make sure their friend is OK. The person who hasn’t checked in also receives a GPS map and the option to call or text the guardian pops up on their phone.

“It’s like having a guardian angel,” says Emil Fioravanti, chief of police at University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

Campuses using Rave Guardian say the app has been beneficial so far.

“There are a number of other programs out there that operate similarly, but we’ve been very happy with Rave Guardian,” says Fioravanti. “The emergency notification response at the end of the day was flawless and reliable. This is something we don’t want to compromise on.”

Students also find the app useful. Zameena Mejia, a senior at SUNY New Paltz, enjoys the security and ease of having Rave Guardian on her phone, especially while walking back to her room after late night meetings.

“I downloaded the app as soon as I found out about it,” says Mejia, 21. “It’s really convenient.”

While Rave Guardian does provide convenience, some campuses, such as the University of Idaho, find university programs more helpful in aiding safety. The school uses three major security programs to educate students on how to stay safe on campus – from online education to workshops in which students help lead presentations and interact with their peers.

Through online videos and student activism, the university seeks to give students a voice in their own safety. For example, Green Dot, a training program for colleges that seeks to create secure, tolerant campuses, encourages students to stand up and against violence.

“Students have a right to live and go to school in a place where they are safe,” says Bruce Pitman, UI dean of students.

According to Pitman, since implementing the safety programs, UI has had an increase in referrals from students who want to help their friends stay safe, as well as a decrease in students engaging in high risk behaviors.

But whether schools opt to use apps or programs, it’s important to remember that campus safety is not a one-man show.

“Campus safety cannot simply be the responsibility of student affairs or law enforcement,” Pitman says. “It must be a product of community coming together and working together. We each have a role to play.”

By: Brooke Metz September 26, 2014

 

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