UMN fraternity uses app to encourage campus safety

University alumnus Jonathan Rabb developed an app that could help improve safety on college campuses.

Eliana Schreiber

Through taekwondo and a new app, Kappa Alpha Psi is teaching its members — and the wider campus community — how to defend themselves in dangerous situations.

A former member of the fraternity chapter partnered with a University of Minnesota professor to create and release an app called ClutchSOS a few weeks ago that helps users alert friends in dangerous situations.

Jonathan Rabb, a 2010 University graduate, started developing ClutchSOS in 2016.

Rabb said he was inspired by events like officer-involved shootings and sexual assaults on college campuses, as well as other common public safety issues.

“We all have things we are afraid of,” Rabb said.

While developing the app, Rabb and his colleagues interviewed students from different backgrounds to find out what they worried about most.

When the app is open, users can share their location with friends and family, record audio and share it and friends can call the police for the user if they are in danger. 

“We wanted to create a way that your fear was validated … but also that if something happens to you, the other person will be held accountable,” Rabb said. “And lastly, that your friends are able to be there with you.”

The ClutchSOS app lets users send an alert to friends to let them know if something dangerous is happening, Rabb said.

At a Kappa Alpha Psi event last month, member Ashtin Gulyard led a taekwondo class and introduced participants to the app during the class.

“We used it because not only should people know how to defend themselves physically, but everyone relies on technology,” Gulyard said.

First-year student Mimi Ewuakye attended the event and agreed that the app was a helpful addition to learning self-defense skills. 

Ewuakye said it is reassuring to have five friends connected on the app while walking home at night instead of having to contact individual people. 

“It’s just a quicker option,” she said.

Rabb said the app is unique because it can be used in many different situations, and hopes the app will expand and become widely used by other groups on campus.

“It’s really cool because you’re empowered and you’re empowering other people,” he said.