Assault. Theft. Harassment. These are only a few worries that came to the minds of several Concordia students when asked what scared them about walking back to or across campus at night.
BlueLight is a mobile app seeking to improve safety for college students by allowing them easier access to help in case of an emergency. This summer, after one or more Concordia students requested BlueLight services, Concordia was added to the group of over 250 campuses that BlueLight serves.
Lauren Wilbanks, director of communications at BlueLight said while the app serves communities other than college students, it was conceived and built on the premise that all students deserve to have a safe education.
“Our charter of helping students live better is still central to our mission,” Wilbanks said in an email interview. “Our toolbox of safety features provides peace of mind for students and their families as students begin the exciting journey of striking out on their own.”
The app allows students in threatening situations to make a call through BlueLight. When students call on campus, BlueLight automatically directs the call to Campus Security who is informed of their exact location. When students make the call off-campus, BlueLight automatically directs the call to 911 or local law enforcement. With their location pinpointed and the closest form of assistance contacted, students are able to quickly receive help.
Students are also able to add five emergency contacts. If a BlueLight call is ever made, these contacts are sent automatic texts notifying them that the student is requesting help.
Cecilia Marshall, an intern for BlueLight said BlueLight offers a number of safety features besides the phone call. One of these includes On My Way, a feature of the app that allows students to inform friends and family when they arrive to their destination safely.
The user pushes the On My Way button, selects up to five people on his or her contact list, tells the app the person’s starting and ending destinations and clicks “Start Trip.” The selected contacts receive a text when the person starts the trip, when they are three-fourths of the way there and when they arrive.
“A lot of students may be at the library or out until late hours on weekends,” Marshall said.
If the person does not know their end destination, the individual can still use the On My Way feature, and click the “Arrived Safely” button, in which case the app would send the texts to the selected contacts informing them that the user made it to their destination.
An additional benefit of On My Way is the ability for the selected contacts to follow the student in real time. When the individual starts his or her journey, the contacts receive a link to a page where they can watch the person’s route. Since the page is updated every minute, it allows the five people to see exactly where the person is and how much progress they have made, Marshall said.
Another feature is BlueLight Places, which enables students to pinpoint up to 20 addresses that they often visit. If the pinpointed places have landlines, they are registered in a 911 database, which makes it easier for the police to locate the student if needed.
“If you’re in a dorm, you can even add your room number to make the address as precise as possible,” Marshall said.
Sammy Severence, an RA in Hoyum, thinks the app would be especially beneficial for college students in the growing cities of Moorhead and Fargo. She also felt that her residents would benefit from the extra protection.
“Things are happening in the areas that maybe didn’t happen years ago, so I think it would be a great idea for students to use an app like this that would really reinforce their security,” Severance said.
Severance recently downloaded the app to see what it was all about. When informed that is costs $9.99 per year with the student discount, she said she would be willing to pay the price.
“I don’t think I would ever short myself on security because of price, especially living in a growing city like this,” Severance said.
While the exact number of Concordia students currently using the app is uncertain, it is a high amount, according to Marshall.
Students are able to download the app for a free month trial.
Katelyn is a senior double majoring in Multimedia Journalism and Communications. She’s been apart of the Concordian team for three years, and plans to travel as much as possible after graduating in December.