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ASCSU working to bring a new safety app to campus

If you are ever in a dangerous situation on campus, help may only be two clicks away.

The Associated Students of Colorado State University are hoping to bring a safety app called 911 Cellular to the Colorado State University campus. President Sam Guinn and Vice President Lance Li Puma presented the project to administration at a CSU budgetary hearing spring semester. They are currently waiting to hear if administration will cover costs of the app before it can launch.

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“We’ve seen we have safety issues across campus,” Li Puma said. The app would be another helpful resource to keep students safe, according to Li Puma.

911 Cellular is a safety system with a panic button to quickly and easily notify police in the case of an emergency. It would connect to Google Maps to more effectively tell police where the alert is coming from, Li Puma said.

“The best analogy for it would be the blue light poles we have across campus, but in your pocket,” Li Puma said.

What sets 911 Cellular apart from competitors is the indoor positioning system it uses, according to Li Puma. The company that runs the app would come to CSU and map out the campus so alerts could be linked to a specific room on campus.

The app would also allow users to set up a “Safe Walk Home” alarm that would alert an emergency contact and the police if the user does not make it home by a previously specified time.

“It’s a two button system, and if something is happening to you, you don’t necessarily need to be talking on the phone to get help,” Li Puma said.

Li Puma said the only thing holding back the project is funding. The app would be free to download for all students, but it would need to be paid for on a yearly basis by either ASCSU or the CSU administration.

It would cost from $20,000 to $30,000 upfront to set up the app, with a $20,000 fee every year after, according to Li Puma.

“If the app doesn’t get funded through (administration), it would be funded through student fees, specifically the ASCSU fee,” Li Puma said.

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Administration, including Provost and Executive Vice President Rick Miranda, Vice President the Division of Student Affairs Blanche Hughes and President Tony Frank, were receptive to the app, Li Puma said.

CSU alumna Nicola Serrao has never felt unsafe on campus, but said the app could be helpful for current students.

“I think that would be a pretty cool app, especially for classes that take place on (the south) side of campus,” Serrao said. “I guess you have your buddies to take care of you, but it’s always good to have a backup.”

Information about resources and programs already available on campus, such as Safe Walk, RamRide and the Victim Assistance Team, would be integrated into the app.

Monica Rivera, assistant director of the Women and Gender Advocacy Center, said she thinks the funds could be put to a better use.

“I think that there’s much better ways ASCSU could spend its money, to not only increase the safety for people on campus, but also to support survivors already on campus,” Rivera said.

While the app is well intentioned, Rivera said she feels it would not solve the problem of sexual violence on campus.

“If it makes an individual person feel more empowered to navigate their life, awesome. Download the app,” Rivera said. “As a prevention strategy, or a very realistic response to the dynamics of violence on campus, I don’t see it as an effective solution.”

Most sexual violence typically takes place away from main campus, in dorm rooms or off-campus locations, so an app targeted to on-campus locations would not be helpful, according to Rivera.

“We know that 98 percent of our students on campus who experience violence are experiencing violence at the hands of someone that they know and trust,” Rivera said. “Some of the things that it sounds like this app is designed to address are not really alarming issues, at least in the hundreds of students that we work with every semester.”

The WGAC is currently promoting education about respecting boundaries and asking for consent as a way to prevent assaults on campus.

“Educating about some of those cultural things, to me, will have a much greater impact than this app,” Rivera said.

Collegian Reporter Emily Vavra can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @vivalavavra.

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