WOLFVILLE – A tall, cerulean blue emergency phone station that once stood outside Acadia University’s main academic building has been removed, but the school’s student president says it’s nothing to feel concerned about.
Acadia Student Union president George Philp says the removal of the last emergency phone – a device originally intended for students in trouble to use to dial for help – from in front of the Beveridge Arts Centre is not cause for concern.
“We understand the technology was quite antiquated, not used, unreliable and expensive to update. Devoting resources to education, resources, promoting safety – that is how we feel it’s best to spend resources to create a safe environment on campus,” he says.
Acadia media spokesperson Scott Roberts confirmed the phones, known as ‘blue lights,’ were first installed in the early 1990s, when he says they were hailed as a safety win. The school began dismantling the blue lights – five in total – around one year ago after determining the devices were used only six times in the past 10 years.
This limited use, mounting repair costs and "the prominence of cell phones are the main reasons the program was scrapped, says Roberts. He did not confirm what Acadia has spent on repairing the technology.
“These are from another era. They are in constant need of maintenance to ensure they work properly, and there’s therefore no guarantee they even work,” he said.
“So that’s a bit of false advertising – just like a payphone on the side of a road that no longer works.”
Philp says the ASU feels confident Acadia is doing enough to keep its students safe. With the school’s Homecoming event on deck this weekend, he says the Axe Bar and Grill – the school’s student bar – is well-staffed with security and is a place students feel safe, even on busy nights.
“We do have what I feel is a strongly level of safety for students on campus,” he said.
Roberts said other services like the school’s Ride Home and Walk Home programs, which see students escorted home via shuttle or on foot by Safety and Security employees, also help students feel safe.
He also said each residence and building with a phone has direct access to campus security by dialing '88', and that resident advisors living in residences are available to students day and night.
Roberts added the school could not continue the program just because some students either may not carry or may not have access to a working cellphone since “it’s completely hypothetical.”
Roberts confirmed “there was no consideration given to installing more” blue lights to increase their prominence on campus.
And Philp said the ASU feels confident the blue lights are no longer needed, so long as the discussion surrounding safety and education on sexualized violence continues.
“One of the things we feel very strongly about at the Acadia Student Union is when we talk about sexualized violence, that is most important in effective cultural change,” he said.
An earlier version of ths story did not correctly credit the photo to author Imriel Bissnette. It has since been updated to fix this error.