Campus Safety App Promotes Safety, Raises Concerns

Campus Safety has announced plans to introduce the LiveSafe mobile application to campus as early as April 2015. The application, which has already been in use at colleges like Arizona State University and the University of Cincinnati, would allow students to communicate information via text message to Campus Safety.

Bob Robinson, Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Campus Services, said that the application’s primary purpose is to enhance the 5C community’s sense of security.

“Its original purpose was strictly for emergency preparedness and raising people’s sense of safety,” Robinson said.

One purpose of the app’s location-sharing feature is to provide reassurance to students who feel uncomfortable walking alone at night. In a feature similar to Apple’s “Find My Friends” application, uneasy students can alert either Campus Safety or a personalized group of friends of their exact location.

“If you’re coming back from Pitzer at two in the morning, you can have your friends track you and they can watch where you’re going,” Robinson said. “They’ll know if you run into trouble.”

Users of the application would also be able to send images or videos to back up their reports of misconduct. Unless a LiveSafe user requests anonymity when making a report or changes the application’s default settings, his or her location will be constantly available to Campus Safety.

“This isn’t a Big Brother thing,” said Pomona College Vice President and Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum. “I want students to understand that [an application with the ability to text Campus Safety] is being responsive to what they were asking for.”

Although Robinson said that Campus Safety had “no intention of using [the location-tracking feature] as any kind of investigative tool,” he left open the possibility that Campus Safety might use the feature to determine which students were near the location of an incident or crime.

Austin Blatt PO ’18, a member of the application’s implementation committee, addressed concerns that the application would enable Campus Safety to track students’ locations.

“Students aren’t that interesting, and they have no reason to [track students],” Blatt said. “The app only sends your location when you, say, send a picture, so that Campus Safety knows when to respond.”

A handout about LiveSafe entitled “Frequently Asked Questions,” which was distributed at the Jan. 23 Senate meeting, states that students are “encouraged to provide picture, audio, or video evidence” when reporting misconduct.

South Campus Representative Aldair Arriola PO ’17 expressed concern that the photo-and-video-sending capabilities of the application, coupled with the feature that allows users to submit reports anonymously, could encourage racial profiling.

“The question is, are people willing to give up … their sovereignty to ensure the safety of others?” Arriola said. “Because of the demographics of our campus and because of society as a whole, some people might be targeted more than others. That worries me.”

Both Robinson and Feldblum maintained that the LiveSafe application would not encourage racial profiling.

“The good thing about it is, it’s all voluntary,” Robinson said. “If you don’t want it, don’t download it.”

A demo version of LiveSafe is currently available for download on the iTunes Store and Google Play.