Emergency phones on campus affected by changes in technology

By Elizabeth Randolph and Jonathan Huntsman

When junior fashion merchandising major Shannon Green walks around campus, she rarely notices her many surroundings.

“I know that I can be the type of person that just goes and focuses on the next direction,” she said.

A feature on campus that Green said she’s never noticed is the abundance of emergency blue light phones on campus. The phones are scattered around campus and are lit at night for people who may find themselves in danger.

Sgt. Michquel Penn has worked for Kent State for nine years. Photo is courtesy of www.kent.edu
Sgt. Michquel Penn has worked for Kent State for nine years. Photo is courtesy of www.kent.edu.

Sgt. Michquel Penn is a Kent State police officer and former community resource officer. Penn said that even though there are approximately 42 phones on Kent State’s campus, they’re often never used in emergency situations.

“I can say that a lot of our emergency calls come from places other than the blue light phones,” Penn said. “I think within the last five years, we’ve only received two to three emergency calls through the phones.”

   So why keep the phones on campus if they’re not being used and students don’t notice them? Earlier this year, Bakersfield College in California made the decision to get rid of its emergency phones,deeming them obsolete and costly  because of the use of technology

   Penn said that while the phones aren’t used often, she does feel that they are necessary to have on campus because not everyone at Kent State has a phone.

“In the one instance where the blue light phones were used, it was because the phone was stolen,” Penn said. “We also have a lot of international students who don’t have phones with U.S. numbers yet or maybe can’t afford one yet.”

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Robert Walker, director of the School of Digital sciences. Photo courtesy of www.kent.edu.

Robert Walker is the director of the School of Digital Sciences and said he thinks students are finding more new-age ways to save themselves.

“For Kent State students, we have two apps for safety,” he said. “There’s the KSU mobile app and the Step up and Speak out app.”

Both the KSU mobile app and the Step up and Speak out app are available on most smartphones, but Green said she’s never downloaded them and doesn’t feel as if they are safer than having the blue light phone accessible to people on campus.

“People don’t realize that a smartphone is still a luxury item that not everyone has,” she said. “I’ve gone through periods where I didn’t have a phone and I would have hated to have to bother someone to use their phone if I was really in an emergency situation.”

Penn said that the emergency phones also gives a direct location to where someone is once they use it.

“With cell phones, we can find a location that is close to where a person is, but it’s not as direct as with a landline,” she said.

Penn said that because the phones do blend in on campus and may not be as noticeable, emergency services does mention them to incoming freshmen.

“We talk about the phones during DKS [Destination Kent State],” Penn said. “We try to make sure students know that they can be found near places they usually go, such as the parking lots and the esplanade.”

Green said that because the phones aren’t as visible to students, she thinks that students who aren’t freshmen should still be aware of where to find the phones.

“We should get emails that reminds us where the phones are located each semester,” Green said. “It would be a good way to let us know that the resource is available to us.”

Penn said that even with the changes in technology, she feels safer as both a parent and a Kent State employee with the emergency phones being on campus than if they were removed.

“For me personally, they can be helpful when needed,” Penn said. “My son is a student here and from a parent’s perspective, I feel safe knowing that my child will always have a way to get help.”