Letters to the editor
The Kingston Whig-Standard
December 11, 2012
I would like to address an important issue that has recently been raised by members of the Queen's and Kingston communities regarding the emergency phone and blue light system on campus ( "Have we really come a long way, baby?" Dec. 6 and "City council takes aim at 'blue light' vandals," Dec. 7).
I can, without hesitation, tell you that the safety of our students has always been, and always will be, of paramount importance to me and the university. False activation of blue lights, no matter the motivation, is an issue that the university and student governments are working to address.
The first blue lights were installed in 1988, not only as a resource for people on campus who may be or feel unsafe, but to deter those who may threaten the safety of others. Today, there are 176 emergency phones on campus, and 75 of them are outdoor phones with accompanying blue lights.
The university, through its Campus Safety Working Group and in collaboration with student governments, has placed a high priority on prevention and education, training and the enforcement of all aspects of student safety. These groups have developed a number of studentsafety initiatives including on-and off-campus audits, a student safety website and a mobile safety app (SeQure), to name only a few. I am extremely pleased with the work of these groups to date.
We are aware that some students participate in games associated with the blue lights whereby they can be awarded a jacket bar (badges for faculty jackets) for having drunk a beer and taping the can to the light. Another aspect of this game is the false activation of, or in some instances outright vandalization of, the blue lights. Such games are unacceptable, not only because they compromise the health and wellness of our students, but also because false activations draw on our Campus Security resources and could potentially endanger the health and wellness of others.
As I said in my blog post on Dec. 6, this act represents an incredible lack of judgment, undoubtedly by an extremely small percentage of our student population.
Security has been working to address this issue for some time, as have other campus partners. This year, the AMS launched a campaign to bring awareness to the issue and discourage fellow students from engaging in this behaviour. This peer-to-peer awareness raising can be extremely effective, and we have noticed a decrease in false activations compared to this time last year. I hope this trend continues as we spread the word that this kind of behaviour does not represent the Queen's spirit or the community we have on campus.
We have also initiated dialogue with faculties to stress that arm or jacket bars should reflect the best of Queen's and its students -the dedication, drive and determination that are the hallmarks of the university -and not inappropriate behaviour in which some students choose to engage.
Those who are caught maliciously activating or damaging a blue light are subject to the university's Non-Academic Discipline system, and may also be subject to criminal charges.
As a whole, we must focus on preventing these activities, and educating students about the possible effects their actions could have on their friends, colleagues and fellow community members.
I also want to assure those of you on campus that all calls from emergency phones receive the highest priority response from Campus Security, whether the calls are suspicious or not. While one false activation is one too many, please know you can continue to use the blue light system and that someone will respond.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen's University