BlueLight, a campus safety mobile application, has added Northwestern to its nationwide network, allowing students to contact University Police with the tap of a button.
The app serves a similar function to the physical blue lights on NU’s campus. When students request help, the app calls UP and shares the user’s physical location and contact information. Users can also share their location with family and friends and the app will send a notification when the user has arrived at their chosen destination.
As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, NU was added to the BlueLight network with nine other schools including the University of Chicago and the University of Kentucky. Preet Anand, BlueLight’s CEO, said around 80 colleges have the app, but students from more than 450 colleges have requested to have the app on their campuses. The app is available for both iPhone and Android.
“It’s our goal to really bring personal safety and security into the modern age,” Anand said. “A lot of the standards are still built for when landlines was the principal way we communicated. We’re really excited to continue to do this at Northwestern.”
Anand said the app is free for the time being with the long-term goal that the University will pay for the service. However, if NU decides not to support the app, students will eventually be charged. He expects those talks won’t happen until the fall.
SESP junior Connor Regan, a former Daily columnist and a former board member of Students Publishing Co., The Daily’s parent organization, requested BlueLight add NU’s campus to the app.
“I had actually just downloaded the app and was using it myself for quite a while,” he said. “I was using it myself all the time and I noticed it had this feature where if you were a college student, you could recommend your campus.”
Associated Student Government, UP and the Division of Student Affairs researched potential safety smartphone apps, but decided none of the third-party vendors fit the University’s needs. Instead, they chose to incorporate the safety features into another app, NUHelp, which is currently being developed and is set to have a beta launch by the end of the quarter.
“After we kind of went through this vetting process for the third-party kind of mobile blue light apps, we saw an opportunity to combine the two projects,” said Kevin Harris, ASG’s vice president for community relations and a Weinberg junior. “There wasn’t a third-party vendor out there that we saw as a good fit for the University’s needs right now.”
Similarly to the website, the NUHelp app will be a “one-stop shop” for student resources, Harris said.
UP Deputy Chief Dan McAleer declined to comment on the BlueLight app, as he said he was unaware of it.
Regan said the app is well-suited to NU’s campus because students do a lot of walking at night, oftentimes alone.
“Our physical blue light system at Northwestern is good, but I don’t think it’s as good as it should be, and so I think this really fills the gap in keeping Northwestern students safe,” he said.