Lack of blue lights risks student safety

Michael LaRocca, Associate Opinion Editor

Students walking by one of 13 blue lights around the Mount Carmel campus. (Peyton McKenzie/Chronicle)

The average walk from my dorm to a Quinnipiac Chronicle meeting in the Lender School of Business takes about seven minutes.

While walking along Bobcat Way at 9 p.m., it’s not hard to notice how ominous the road can be without any buddies beside you. The street is dotted with a few light posts, but there are not enough to prevent the occasional pitch black space from appearing as you walk.

Personally, as a young adult male, I recognize that I have the privilege of being able to go outside at this time of night without much concern for my safety or well-being. However, I can see why this strip of road may be worrisome, especially when there are zero installed blue lights along the way.

Blue light emergency systems are a means of security, primarily used on college campuses, to give students a simple and quick way to contact campus security in the event of an emergency. They tend to come in the form of a tall, blue telephone pole, which contains a red button that can be used to call the authorities.

Walking along Bobcat Way during the night already leaves students vulnerable to potentially violent encounters under the cover of darkness, and without a quick way to contact the authorities, those chances can only increase.

While I have thankfully never needed to use the service these systems provide, nor have I ever heard of their use, their presence when in my sightline gives me a sense of calm I cannot find anywhere else.

However, at Quinnipiac, that calm can only be found at concerningly few places on campus.

During my college search, campus security seemed to be a universal priority for prospective students in my high school class, and most universities have been willing to address those concerns in proactive ways.

One example that has stood out to me recently occurred during my visit to the University of Maryland, College Park in April 2019. During my tour, I remember vividly when the tour guide said that no matter where you are on campus, you will never be out of view from one of their emergency blue light boxes. The university also has the UMD Guardian mobile application that allows students to communicate with campus police at all hours of the day, and includes a panic function similar to the blue lights.

In an attempt to call UMD’s bluff, I went online to see how many blue light boxes they had scattered across campus, and was amazed to find out that it was over 300. Despite the fact that the UMD is considerably larger than Quinnipiac’s Mount Carmel campus, this amount absolutely dwarfs Quinnipiac’s offering.

Chief of Public Safety Tony Reyes said there are 13 blue light boxes on the Mount Carmel campus. These include five at various locations in the North Lot, five in the Hogan Lot, two in between the College of Arts and Sciences buildings and Bobcat Way, and one in the South Lot.

The starkest contrast to Quinnipiac’s offering can be found only 10 miles up the road at Yale University. The university’s website flaunts that it provides over 250 emergency phones across its 260-acre central campus, which happens to be only slightly larger than Mount Carmel’s 250-acre size.

While New Haven is a very different place size and safety-wise compared to Hamden, the approximate 19:1 ratio is still unreasonable on Quinnipiac’s end. A more fair comparison for this scenario can be seen through Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Its campus is slightly smaller than Mount Carmel at 242 acres, yet it provides 32 blue lights compared to Quinnipiac’s 13.

Through the eyes of a concerned student, this amount is absolutely appalling. Recently, after the conclusion of a late class, I had to make the long walk from the Center for Communications and Engineering back to my residence hall on the opposite end of campus. During this 10-minute walk in the near-pitch black darkness, I happened to notice that I did not see a single blue light along the way. This stood out to me, especially while walking across the campus’ sprawling quad that wasn’t adequately lit to begin with.

Considering the staff shortage that campus security is suffering from at the moment, a lack of blue lights on campus can only be more concerning for Quinnipiac students currently living on main campus. It is even more worrying when one realizes that the few blue lights the campus does have happen to be in locations that students who live on campus rarely visit. With the budget cuts that Public Safety is facing as well, more blue light can only help the department do their jobs better in this climate.

Across the residential and academic districts of Mount Carmel, the only real checkpoint of security is the Public Safety office located at the base of Irmagarde Tator Hall. This means that in the event of an emergency, this location is your best bet for safety.

In no way am I calling Mount Carmel an unsafe place to live as a student, I am just someone who would love to see it be even safer. College should be a place where everyone can live their lives to the fullest without any worry for their safety, indoors and outdoors.

As a student body, we should feel thankful that there were not any major safety emergencies on Mount Carmel campus this past fall because in the simplest terms, the lack of blue lights is a tragedy waiting to happen.