Follow the Blue Light, Part 1

Students on Alfred University’s campus may have noticed a lack of a certain color in the night: blue. To some, that color means nothing, to others it signifies that nearby is a blue light system.

The blue light system is a series of emergency alarm stations placed across campus to provide assistance to anyone in distress. They are usually used as deterrents and safe locations for those experiencing physical or sexual harassment. When the alarm station is activated, an officer or emergency team member will be dispatched to the location.

It would be easily forgiven if a majority of students on campus had no idea Alfred University had this system in place, as the original total of 18 lights has now dwindled to a defunct two. One near Miller Center, and the other near Stull Observatory, both have notices not to use the alarm and to instead contact 911 or Public Safety.

Alfred is known for its disconnected campus, with many alleys and side-paths being used as shortcuts to reach buildings, as well as long stretches of poorly lit walkways from the residence halls to other parts of campus.

According to the Office of Postsecondary Education Campus Security Statistics, hostile encounters (i.e. sexual harassment, physical altercations) are not to be a cause of concern on AU’s campus. 2019 reported some of the lowest rates of that criteria.

Included in the Campus Safety Report, are mentions of the AU Rave Guardian app. Students on-campus in 2020-2021, likely saw some posters in residence halls portraying this app.

“A Blue Light right in your hand,” is the motto plastered at the very top of the bright blue poster.

However, this year, it seems like those posters are not to be found—and neither is the app, under the name “AU Rave Guardian.” Whether the app is still in production, or has been released under another name, will be answered in a future article. It should be noted that Public Safety is significantly understaffed, and so re-creation of something of the magnitude of a blue light system will take time.

In the meantime, students have started taking things into their own hands, ensuring safety even if outright confrontation doesn’t have a high likelihood.

“I was a part of a little group that would walk people to and from places at any time of the day or night, but unfortunately, we stalled out,” Andrew Cobb, an Art major said, adding, “Please, carry some self-defense. I have had some dangerous encounters myself.”

In an article written for the Fiat Lux in November 2019, author Karah Landries said, “The blue light system will not be in place in the near future, rather AU has upgraded to help students feel that we have a safe campus.” This was in reference to Public Safety looking to switch from the physical blue light alarms to the app. The idea that the victim, or possible victim, could keep moving to safety while reporting the incident seemed to be more of an attractive alternative to standing in place in a possibly isolated location.

A survey conducted online of Alfred University students shed light on how the university community views, or doesn’t view, the blue light system as a whole. While the survey will continue to be ongoing for the rest of the semester, the preliminary results of 39 respondents shows an interesting picture.

According to the survey, 38.5% of respondents were unaware that Alfred University had had a blue lights system—or something similar. When offered with a choice of if students wanted solely the app, the physical system, both, or neither, a majority of 59% voted for both. The second highest rated was the app at 20.5%.

The overall consensus of where students would place the physical systems, if they were to be brought back online, were on the walkway connecting Tefft with Powell, unfortunately nicknamed as “Rape Alley,” as well as in parking lots, in front of residential halls, by McLane and the Observatory, and in any “rural” location where cell reception on campus is spotty.

Some respondents were more forward with their ideas, with one respondent saying to have them placed, “Every 100 yards or so.” Another wanted them along, “all roads and paths.”

While a modern age, and a campus focused on highlighting its safety, would beget more support for the app, there is still a question begging to be answered: where is the blue light?

By Sam Sage


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