Need For Blue Light System At SWIC?


An epidemic is sweeping the nation. It could strike anyone, anywhere and at any time. What is even more crazy is that at the frontlines of this epidemic are our nation’s students and educators. So, a question is raised, are we safe at school, and what is being done? 

All over college campuses, there are systems being put into place in order to protect its students from possible dangers, such as active shooters. One that is very intriguing is the blue light system. The blue light system is a system of emergency phones positioned throughout the college campus, which allow students in danger to call either campus security or the local police.  These blue light stands can be scattered throughout campus, based on the need for them. A college campus in south Chicago might have dozens of blue light systems, while a college in a small town may only have a few. Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC) does not take advantage of this resource, but could they?

Dennis Shannon, a SWIC professor of over two decades, provided his thoughts on whether SWIC should implement the blue light system

Dennis Shannon and Molly Brennan

“The blue light system seems an outdated technology. Given that we all carry cellular devices, an easier and more cost-effective system appears to be a better choice. Perhaps the SWIC alert system or a SWIC phone app could offer what the blue light system provides.”

Catina Williams, a SWIC professor of over 12 years, saw potential in the blue light system, as well as pointing out a similar feature SWIC has that resembles the blue light system. 

“It would depend on where the lights are stationed. Currently, there are red phones all around SWIC that can be used for emergencies,” said Williams.

SWIC offers many ways to keep its students safe. One of these ways is through the SWIC Alert system. This is a system that emails and/or texts threats on campus to students and staff members. The question is raised, however, is this system being utilized well enough?

“It [SWIC Alert] seems to me is working well,” stated Katherine Witzig, a philosophy and ethics professor of over 12 years. 

Michael Oliver, a professor of over 27 years at SWIC, offered some insight on the matter.  

“The system itself is well conceived. It has its limitations, however, but these are part and parcel of the technology employed: the system requires that the recipients have access to the technology at any given time and place, which, of course, cannot be guaranteed. Nevertheless, it has its uses, as long as the ’emergency situation’ does not require immediate action by all intended recipients,” said Oliver.

There are many other ways that SWIC is helping aid the safety of its students. Many of the teachers at SWIC take part in emergency drills, some of which are aimed at preparing them if an active shooter were to be on campus. Shannon shared his thoughts on training of staff at SWIC. 

“Faculty and staff do receive training; however, I often wonder how I would respond in that time of need. Perhaps we should expand the current training to include students, class by class. This would provide all of us practice of the recommended actions for each location on campus we might find ourselves if an active shooter is present,” said Shannon.

Williams also mentioned that SWIC offers many classes that professors can sign up for that are aimed at teaching safety. 

“We can sign up for voluntary safety classes with Public Safety. I’ve taken the class as has many of my colleagues,” said Williams.

SWIC has become proactive in their attempts to keep their students and staff safe, with a variety of training and safety techniques. Witzig offers us a humbling testament of just how real this threat is, and why it is so important it is for SWIC staff to stay proactive for their safety of their student’s safety. 

“I think that, unfortunately, most members of a campus community are only too aware of the dangers active shooters present to the population,” said Witzig. “More specifically, the material provided by Public Safety by way of emails, the sessions provided to faculty on the dangers of active shooters and the best practices to ensure the safety of as many of our campus population as possible, even the public discourse on the events themselves all provide the knowledge of what can be known and what done during such an incident. Awareness is key here—although none of this will guarantee anything if the bullets begin to fly. Will we know what to do? I believe the answer is yes. Will we do it? Some will, and, I suspect, some won’t.”

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