By Emma Lynch
The University of Tampa announced at the beginning of the Spring 2022 semester that all blue light phones will be removed from campus starting in February with an emphasis on the SOS Smartphone Safety app.
UT urges campus members to download the Spartan SOS smartphone safety app which is considered a “blue light phone in every pocket,” according to UT’s global email.
“We have chosen to switch to the app for many reasons, but one of the main issues was the inability to repair the blue light phones when they are down,” said Kevin Howell, director of Campus Safety. “Parts have been either impossible to find or they aren’t produced any longer. The technology is now antiquated with the significant use of cell phones now.”
The app is free to all UT faculty, staff and students and can be scanned from the QR code on laser team carts or downloaded from Google Play or the App Store.
“Spartan SOS has already had more activity since its launch in Aug. 2021 than the blue light phones have had in the past ten years,” said Howell. “The app has been well-received in the community and many students like that they can be anywhere to use its features.”
The university encourages campus members to use the app to ensure that the removal of the blue light phones won’t negatively impact safety on campus.
“I understand the need for both the lights and app, and can see why campus safety would aim for a faster and more efficient approach, but I think this can be a huge accessibility issue for some,” said Madelyn Sprinkel, senior advertising major. “Ultimately I think we should have more blue light phones and not move to the app only. Some people don’t have a smartphone, what if your phone dies and you are in a dangerous situation or you don’t have your phone on you?”
Once the app is downloaded it will connect any UT community member with the UT Department of Campus Safety.
According to UT’s global email, “Users can even make an emergency call to Campus Safety – anywhere on campus – without unlocking their smartphone, or without having to remember Campus Safety’s phone number.”
App users can set a timer while traveling to their destination that will notify an outside source if they end up in an unsafe situation.
Additionally, features offered that cannot be accessed on the blue light phones include sending anonymous tips, accessing safety resource documents and links, and accessing an area map that expands outside of campus.
The university has not released any further commentary regarding the controversial nature of the topic. Some campus members have questioned if these actions will poorly impact safety on campus.
“The removal of the blue light system seems to jeopardize victims in dangerous situations, and potentially discriminates against people who may not have adequate mobile phone data coverage,” said James Houlahan, Resident Assistant.“Having that system in place ensures that anyone can access safety when they need it.”
Students and other campus members have commented on the need for both the app and blue light phone option for accessibility purposes.
“The mobility of having an app on your phone is something that you don’t get from the stationary blue light phones,” said Howell. “Being able to reach Campus Safety in the event of an emergency quickly while staying mobile versus searching out a stationary phone and being tethered to one spot to report an emergency makes the app more efficient and a safer option.”
Photo Courtesy of UT