Safety is a top priority on all college campuses and every school has different techniques to ensure the safety of their students. The University of Tampa has Campus Safety patrolling campus 24/7, student ID checks in residence halls at night and blue safety lights around campus that have a direct line to security. This system creates a good environment for making sure that we are all safe while in the residence halls or walking from building to building, but when most of the crime happens on the outskirts of campus, then none of these things really help. When I first started here, the blue safety lights in various locations around campus were an important feature that my mom and I both liked about the campus. However, when I looked into it more I couldn’t seem to find any statistics about these blue poles anywhere.
These blue poles are called “blue light” phones, according to Campus Safety. They are spread out across campus and whether they are in the form of a telephone or the actual blue pole, you either pick up a handset or press a button and are directly connected to campus safety where they try to respond in under two minutes. I always see them around campus but more recently, I found one in the West parking garage that had a piece of paper taped to it that read ‘ out of order’ which makes me wonder how many others could possibly be out of order as well. I have never seen one of those lights in action or ever heard of one assisting a student when they were in danger. But how would we know about them, if they don’t post statistics? One drastic way to test these blue light phones is to push the button ourselves and see how long we actually have to wait for help to come; after all a lot can happen in two minutes. (Note: this is illegal).
We frequently receive alerts in our Spartans email about students being mugged or attacked, many of which happen on Cass Street or the area encompassing the backside of our campus. A more strategic location for these blue poles would be on the edge of campus where it seems more likely that someone may actually need to push the button for immediate help. As the lights stand now, they are so far apart that if campus security is on the other side of campus, the chances of them getting to you before the perpetrator gets away or does harm are slim. If you have ever been in a golf cart, you know they don’t move too fast even when you have the pedal to the floor. It might at least scare the criminal away if they know that help is coming or if a light/ alarm comes on.
A big selling point during campus tours are the safety of these blue poles, however, they fail to mention any specific information about them on our school website. We go to school on a beautiful campus right next to the downtown area which I think distracts people from being aware that the areas around us are potentially dangerous. We also go to school on an open campus, meaning anyone can walk on and off whenever they like. It makes sense that the blue lights are located throughout campus, but for this same reason they need to be surrounding campus as well. Campus Safety will never be able to be everywhere on campus so we need to make smart decisions when it comes to off-campus safety such as not walking alone late at night where the area is poorly lit or less populated.
Katie Drake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org