Student Asks Admin: Are Blue Lights Effective?

By Jacob DeCarli ’22, Associate Managing Editor

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A student met with administration to voice concerns about the number and effectiveness of blue lights on campus, which are very rarely used.  

Eleanor Mariani ’22 emailed President Margee Ensign’s office to set up a meeting about blue lights and safety on campus. “The safety of the students needs to be more focused,” she said.

Mariani said during her first semester she could not find a blue light to immediately access. “I feel we are really lacking blue lights,” she said and described areas like Morgan field and the Kline center where there is only one blue light per area. 

According to Dee Danser, assistant vice president of compliance and campus safety, there are currently 18 blue lights scattered across campus and it can cost as much as $10,000 to purchase a new one. Additionally, the $10,000 cost excludes installation and maintenance. 

Along with the costs, Danser explained that the blue light phones are “prone to maintenance issues due to moisture” and are rarely used because of students’ access to cell phones. “It has been a number of years since one was been used to report an emergency on campus,” she said.

Although some colleges and universities in the country are in the process of removing their blue light systems, Danser said that Dickinson will not remove any of their 18 blue lights. “[W]e [will] continue to evaluate if the phones we do have are located in appropriate areas,” she said. 

Marinari said she had heard from other students that they were also concerned about blue lights and general campus safety. “[T]hey thought the blue lights wouldn’t work or they would randomly go off. They just felt it wasn’t reliable,” she said. Marinari said she also wanted to bring to administration’s attention the lack of lights at night.

Marinari met with Brontè Burleigh-Jones, vice president of finance and administration; George Stroud, dean of student life; and Danser on Wednesday, April 17.

Marinari said the administrators were “very receptive” to her frustrations with safety on campus during the meeting. Due to the high cost of blue light installation, Marinari suggested Dickinson invest in more campus safety officers, but was made aware of the high costs of more staff. “[They] should weigh the cost of the safety of the students vs the cost of the safety officers,” she said.

This is not the first time this issue has been raised by students. In 2016, the Public Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) collected recommendations about safety on campus from students and learned that students were interested in having more blue lights installed on campus, according to a Dickinsonian article from April 21, 2016. The concerns at this time focused on locations past Denny on Dickinson Ave. closer to the 25/27 apartments, and adding more lighting in back alleys such as Dickinson Ave. and the alley behind the Reed Street houses. 

An email sent out by the school on Wednesday, April 17, stated that Dickinson Public Safety conducted a safety walk around campus to inspect different areas of concern. Marinari, along with other students, joined DPS and pointed out the absence of an emergency phone outside of Longsdorff hall. Additionally, Marinari suggested to install more light posts on campus because “walking behind Goodyear is very dark as well as the side of Morgan [field] going towards Allison [hall],” she said.

Danser said she recognizes that blue lights allow students to have “some feeling of safety,” but that Dickinson will use resources to address safety in “effective ways” with extra campus shuttles and patrolling DPS officers at night.