One year after the introduction of a new campus security service for smartphones, student reaction remains uncertain.
Launched in August 2011, Bulldog Mobile is a service that allows students, faculty and staff to use their phones as personal security devices thanks to a GPS tracking technology implemented by the Yale Police Department. While University administrators said several hundred students have registered for the service since last fall, students interviewed were divided about the effectiveness of Bulldog Mobile as a personal safety tool.
“Bulldog Mobile gives students, faculty and staff an effective way to coordinate with Yale Police via mobile device to help provide a safe and secure campus environment,” YPD Assistant Chief Steven Woznyk said.
Bulldog Mobile is an opt-in system in which users can register their phones online and create personalized profiles, with all data provided encrypted to protect the privacy of the user. If a registered student calls the YPD from his or her cellphone, a dispatcher will instantly access the user’s profile information — including physical description, residential college, class schedule and medical conditions — and will be able to track the GPS location of the phone call.
The service only activates when a person places a phone call to the YPD, Woznyk said, and police are never able to see registered users’ information or track their GPS locations unless the YPD receives a call.
“In an emergency, [Bulldog Mobile] is another way to get help quickly and for the police to have important information when they are responding,” said Janet Lindner, associate vice president for administration. For instance, if a student has mobility needs, emergency responders could take appropriate action in their response, Lindner said.
“It’s an enhancement to traditional calls, in which the dispatcher would have to ask for your name and location,” she added.
In addition, Bulldog Mobile allows students to set a timer for reaching a target destination and leave a voicemail message informing the YPD about their current location, intended destination and course of travel. If the timer is not deactivated upon reaching the destination or after a series of reminders, the YPD is notified and can take response actions.
Bulldog Mobile was promoted at campus safety sessions during freshman orientation this and last fall as well as at meetings with students and in safety advisories to the entire community, Lindner said, which resulted in spikes in registrations.
According to YPD Chief Ronnell Higgins, 2,055 users — Yale students, faculty and staff — are registered on Bulldog Mobile. While Bulldog Mobile has not yet been used to report any emergencies, Lindner said she hopes more students will register online for this service, “as it gives you one more tool to help you stay safe.”
“Just as with all safety tools, the more we promote [Bulldog Mobile], the more people will use it, so we’ll continue to communicate about the tool throughout the year,” Lindner said.
But students’ response to this new safety service has been mixed. Out of 10 students interviewed, only two said they had registered for the system, one said he intended to sign up for the service and the others said they have not registered and do not feel the need to do so in the future.
Jéssica Maguilnik Leão ’16 activated Bulldog Mobile on her phone when she arrived on campus in August but said she is disappointed with the service, explaining that when she called the YPD to request assistance, security escorts took 15 minutes to arrive to Old Campus.
“In the case of emergency, it’s definitely a [time frame] that allows for bad things to happen,” Leão said. “I can’t imagine that security at Yale can’t afford to make the service more readily available.”
Rohan Goswami ’15 said that, although he does not have serious concerns about his personal safety on campus, he might opt into Bulldog Mobile soon.
“I don’t really feel that unsafe, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to have an additional peace of mind,” Goswami added.
Bulldog Mobile is a product of Rave Guardian, a New York-based company that provides software safety apps for several institutions nationwide, including Brown University and University of Pennsylvania.