Megan Markus

Equinox Staff


Katelyn Williams wasted no time last spring when she was elected student body president.

According to Williams, she was approached by a student who shared a traumatic story in which the student claimed that had a nearby blue emergency light been functioning properly, the trauma the student had dealt with could have been entirely avoided.

The incident sparked discussion and emotion from Williams. “Advocating the students’ views and really representing the students is something that I am extremely passionate about and the safety on our campus is important,” Williams said.

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Williams responded to the incident by setting up a table in the student center and questioning students on how safe they felt on campus.

Many of the concerns from students were about the lighting at night.

“I wrote a formal letter explaining that the blue lights aren’t working,” the student body president explained.

“The path near Wal-Mart and the lighting on campus in general is a concern for student’s safety. As the student body president, I can’t put a price on the students’ safety on this campus,” Williams stated.

The letter Williams constructed was sent directly to the president of the college, and from there, a committee was created with a goal to make sure that all of the emergency blue lights on campus were functioning properly.

“Last year, all of our blue lights did not properly light up,” Williams explained.

“The main purpose of a blue light is so that you can find it, and because they weren’t lit up, you would never know they were working. My concern is that if you can’t see it, then its useless,” Williams said.

Associate Director of Campus Safety, Ethan Kipnes, collaborated over the summer with the campus IT and the electricians from Physical Plant to test and ensure that all emergency blue lights and all campus telephones were working properly.

“They were never not working, reality is that what students think are blue light phones actually are not. There are about 140 phone systems on campus, whether they are a blue light telephones, a residence hall entry telephones, or elevator telephones,” Kipnes said. “Not all necessarily have blue lights above them but when the phones are picked up we react in the same way as if it were an emergency.”

Not all telephones on campus are a part of the blue light system, however.

If  a student  has a problem, Kipnes assured that Campus Safety will react the same as if it were a 911 call. “Because they are all emergency phones we want to make sure they are all working at all times. There has never been a time where the whole system isn’t working,” he explained.

“There may have been a light out or, like, a cell phone there was a bad connection, or we can’t hear very well what’s going on, but if a student pushes the button it tells us exactly where you’re calling from and we will send an officer to the location,” Kipnes said.

Campus Safety is conducting regular monthly testing on the blue lights and all telephones on campus to ensure that they are working correctly.   Senior Lauren Brown said she isn’t quite sure how reliable the blue lights are on campus.

“The blue lights make me feel safe, but I’m not sure what the reliability is. If I was actually in danger I’d probably just run for my life. I don’t know if I would sit and wait for campus safety to respond to the blue light.” Brown continued, “Who knows if they would actually come to my rescue. I also think that a lot of students press the button for a lot of ‘ha-has’ on the weekends as a joke, I don’t think that they take it seriously, which is kind of unfortunate.”

The senior continued and said,  “Its like the boy who cried wolf scenario, so who knows if campus safety will actually respond to each call or if they take them seriously.”

According to Williams, student government’s next step in promoting safety is now to promote a light to the bridge of Wal-Mart, another major safety concern.

“The majority of students walk there either to go to Wal-Mart or go to their car. The college does not own the property so we had to create a way in which we could do this without putting this on the actual pathway. We are hoping that we will have a spotlight that will shoot onto the bridge so you can see at least 10 feet in front of you, which will ultimately become a safer environment,” Williams said.


                        Megan Markus can be contacted at                             

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