MSA asks for more code blue phones

The Minnesota Student Association wants to add eight phones to the current 20.

Tricia Michel

The Minnesota Student Association is pushing the University to install more code blue emergency phones on campus.

At the end of October, MSA Vice President Jeff Nath presented Project Lighthouse – a set of proposed resolutions about student expenses and safety concerns.

“Safety is a huge issue,” Nath said.

Through Project Lighthouse, MSA wants to improve lighting around campus and increase the number of emergency code blue phones.

The University has 20 code blue emergency phones scattered on the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses.

MSA wants to add at least eight more phones to campus.

Department of Central Security director Robert Janoski said the emergency code blue phones have been mostly used to report medical emergencies and accidents since the systems were installed in the early 90s.

“They’ve never been used to report an assault,” he said.

In addition to the 20 code blue emergency phones, the campus has 200 yellow emergency phones that can be used to call for information or 911. There are also 31 stenophones – box phones that dial the central police station phone line, Janoski said.

New emergency code blue phones cost between $2,000 to $5,000 per site, Janoski said.

He said box phones are less expensive and have more options than code blue phones.

“They are an advantage because you are able to call other numbers and information,” he said.

Ohio State University has more than 130 code blue emergency phones and is the largest university protected by a police agency, Ohio State data systems coordinator Kevin Kosch said.

He said the campus has at least one code blue emergency phone per block in heavily populated areas.

Kosch said the phone system is a useful tool, but it is not perfect.

“We get more false calls than anything else, and we have to respond to all calls,” he said.

The University of Iowa has 22 code blue emergency phones on campus that receive more false alarms than real emergencies.

Though the code blue systems are used infrequently to report accidents and fights, they are useful crime deterrents, University of Iowa crime prevention specialist Brad Allison said.

“I feel like they provide a service in just their physical presence,” he said.

Many University students said they do not use or tamper with the code blue emergency phones.

Senior Jennifer Petersen said she has never used a code blue emergency phone but admits that she has wanted to set one off just for fun.

She said she has never felt unsafe on campus. However, she said the University could use a few more code blue emergency phones because she does not know where any are located.

“I don’t see myself needing to use one, but if I did, I’d feel pretty crappy if I couldn’t find one,” she said.

Nath said because MSA realizes money is tight, the organization will continue to work on improving on-campus lighting and re-identifying code blue emergency phones if funding for new phones is not approved.

“They are slightly expensive, but if it saves someone’s life, it’s worth it,” Nath said.