The Blue Light Dilemma

By Noah Braun
Staff Writer

You are alone on St. Michael’s campus as your watch beeps midnight. Your safe dorm is too far away and you feel like someone is behind you. Your phone is dead and all you can see is a glowing blue light. That beacon is a direct means to talk with campus safety. There are 20 towers across campus, yet some members of the St. Michael’s community are unaware or confused as to the function they serve.
Blue Light is an automatic security audio system that rings a call to campus safety when the button is pushed. Users can then describe their issue to an officer without using a smartphone. They were installed back in the 90s.
Public Safety explained how the Blue Light system works. When a button is pressed, the blue light blinks, but the tower emits no sound. There is a telephone that connects to 911 which reaches the college’s dispatch center. Public Safety can identify the button that was pushed.
“I know that there are students emotionally feel unsafe on campus,” said Toni Messuri, a member of the Accessibility Services, had no idea what the security boxes did but understood how important they could be to members of the college.
Messuri wasn’t the only person who felt like Blue Light were misunderstood. “They’re out in public places, but most problems happen in private places,” said Douglas Babcock, the director of public safety. “In an emergency, you might just run past it because you know you can go inside a dorm with your card.
Babcock explained the security measure had deteriorated over the years. “I think that we will keep them around for the psychological sense of security, but it’s not something to expand. We are looking at other products, such as a portal Wi-Fi button, which you can bring inside a townhouse. They can open up a two-way communication stream where we could hear what’s going on,” Babcock said. “If you never went up and thought about using a callbox, you might run right by it in an emergency.”
“It feels a little unsafe to take away that security precaution from campus,” said Phoebe Laidley-Collias ’19, who has spent the last year living off campus. “Depending on where you are on campus, your phone might not get service. It’s always good to have them in case you are alone at night.”
Babcock recommends using the LiveSafe app for communicating with public safety in case of an emergency. “When you open the app it will explain how to discuss a conflict with a safety officer. Hopefully the more people use this technology, the more secure St. Michael’s will feel to the students living here,” Babcock said.
“I wanted to talk to students if they would use [these blue boxes] around campus. We had this meeting and not a single student turned up,” Babcock said. “I need to know if students are seeing something different than I do. I need to get the information from you about how security and safety actually flows in student lives.”