Members of Student Government are working to bring a mobile safety application to campus in an attempt to give students a better sense of security.
Taylor Strickland, SG vice president, said the inspiration for the application came from a similar program at Virginia Tech, which a student who was present at Virginia Tech’s 2007 on-campus shooting helped develop.
“I’ve lived in West Campus since my sophomore year, and I’ve actually been fortunate enough to always feel safe, but I know that’s not a universal feeling,” Strickland said. “So any tools we can provide to students to make them feel better and more secure and safe is kind of what I saw this being a great opportunity for.”
Strickland said the main feature of the application would be a tracking system for students walking on campus or back and forth from their homes. It would allow a friend or parent to monitor their progress and show when the student reached their destination.
“This is probably one of the biggest ones because we live on a campus where a lot of students live in West Campus, and a lot of students live within walking distance, even if you’re just on campus and walking at night,” Strickland said. “That way somebody is looking out for you, and it doesn’t have to be super invasive, but at the same time, it’s just an extra sense of security.”
Strickland also said they want the application to connect students to officers from both the University of Texas Police Department and the Austin Police Department, and SG members have worked alongside UTPD officials on the early stages of its development.
Instead of adding more blue emergency call boxes across campus and further into West Campus, Strickland said she saw this as a more feasible and practical solution.
“We have a great UTPD, they do a lot, but there’s only so much you can do with 50,000 students, and that’s where blue boxes came in,” Strickland said. “So where UTPD can’t be, the blue boxes are there, but now we’ve moved into an age where blue boxes can’t be everywhere.”
Government senior Mirusha Yogarajah said she liked the idea of a safety application but said she wasn’t sure students would consider the application a viable option for personal security.
“I know I’m sometimes worried about walking home when there aren’t many people around, and this feels like a sense of security,” Yogarajah said.
Corporate communications senior Anna Chamness said she has lived in West Campus for three years and that an application like this would be useful to all students walking to and from campus or walking to different places in West Campus.
“I think the app is a step closer in improving the safety of West Campus and other student-populated areas,” Chamness said. “It’s an easy and convenient way to make sure our friends make it home safely after a night out.”
Strickland said she hopes the application will be available to all students — even those who don’t live on campus or in West Campus.
“What I would really like to see is this count for more than the 40 Acres because we aren’t always on the 40 Acres,” Strickland said. “There are a ton of students who live on Riverside, and there’s some students who live in North Campus, so making sure that they can still use this app and someone will make sure that [the police] get contacted no matter what the circumstances.”