University Requires Students To Buy GPS-Enabled Phones

from the overkill? dept

When I was in college, the campus safety system consisted of a series of emergency telephone poles with blue lights on top. The deal was that from any place on campus you were supposed to be able to see at least one emergency blue light phone, and in the event of an emergency, all you needed to do was knock one such phone off the hook and campus police would arrive quickly. It appears that some universities are getting a more modern update on this idea, as Montclair State University apparently requires students to buy a special GPS-enabled mobile phone that can be used to report emergencies to campus officials. The phones come with special software, including a special timer system. A student can set the timer before walking home, and if he or she does not turn off the timer by the time it is up, the police will be alerted to the location of the phone. It’s an interesting feature — but is it really worth requiring all students to buy one? Apparently very few students actually use the system at all. It’s certainly for a good cause, but it sounds like it’s a bit of overkill that is resulting in very little usage. There’s nothing wrong with offering such a deal to students who want it — which will make it naturally appealing to those who are safety conscious and, thus, more likely to use it. However, forcing everyone to buy in seems unnecessary.

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Companies: montclair state university

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Comments on “University Requires Students To Buy GPS-Enabled Phones”

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Panaqqa (user link) says:

So, the students MUST buy one huh?

The cynic in me wants to ask how much the handset manufacturer is paying the university (or somebody at the university with the authority to make and enforce this policy) for each mandatory purchase made by a student. I’d also bet students must buy the mobility plan specified by the university. Someone’s getting a kickback here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Get ready for the brave new future. If all the students come out of the university system already trained like Pavlov’s dog to walk around with a gps location chip embedded on their body, the universities will have done the corporate world its job for them.

No big deal to walk into your first job and have a gps tracking device pinned to your lapel along with the welcome hand shake !

Cynic says:

Although there is no shortage of incompetents in the work force, I never had to deal with as many as I encountered in the Administration of the college I attended from 1971 thru 1975, until I later had to deal (indirectly) with the incompetents in the Administration of the two colleges my kids went to, from 2002 until the present. Teachers came in good and bad flavors, but the Administration of colleges seems to attract the clueless. My person opinion.

General Eskimo says:

So why would this work?

Ok, it seems like there are several problems with this system. First, if they are forcing everyone to buy one, then wouldn’t that mean that most any attacker (especially those who are students) would know to turn off the timer? Also, what happens when they forget to turn it off? Either it just goes ahead and calls the cops, meaning the cops are going to come for no reason every few days, or it will start beeping at you to warn you that the time is almost up, which would remind any attacker to turn off the timer.

Anonymous Coward says:

@General Eskimo

The full article says they’ve gotten about one false alarm per month (actually, that’s alarms total: they’ve all been false so far), which they believe serves well for training the police force on how to handle those circumstances for when a true alarm does occur.

But yeah, $210 per semester doesn’t come easy to a lot of college kids. Hopefully the financial aid of the university covers it for those who have it already. But then again, as mentioned earlier, this IS what colleges do: I have friends in college right now who were required to purchase meal plans, whether or not they ever even use them. Makes sense that they would want this affordable for the students who would like it but are really strapped for cash.

Technofear (profile) says:

Ahhh...The pranks you can play

Think of the pranks you can play on someone with one of these phones.

Set the alarm without their knowledge while they are otherwise occupied with a partner / drunk / in an exam etc.

Set alarm and put phone in mates car just before a road trip..(add a few incriminating goodies..)

The possibilities are endless.

Thank you Big Brother!

David says:


Aren’t most modern cell phones GPS enabled already? I know my Nextel is. My wife’s Cingular phone has GPS in it (albeit a castrated version compared to my Nextel). The FCC required cell phone carriers to provide location services on handsets by a certain time, though I don’t remember when.

I can already install applications on my Nextel that tells me where the phone is at any given time. I know there are services online that do the same thing with a number of carriers, the only caveat is that it sends a text message to the phone at set intervals to let the user know the phone is being tracked.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with the idea of being forced to have a GPS enabled phone “for my security”. Hell, 911 is 4 buttons away.

God help the first poor student who forgets that their timer is running when they stop to talk to a friend on the way home.

Fred Smith says:

“Apparently very few students actually use the system at all.”
Would you feel safer if it was used all the time?
Each new safety device is used to cut the current accidents by (let’s say) 50%. So in the beginning we had car and 100% of the accidents happened. Then seatbelt came and now we are down to 50% of the accidents. By the time you get to the crumple zones, air bags, ABS, front and rear radar, etc. the last safety device saved 1 life.

Anon Jr says:

Its happening elsewhere too

Fayetteville State University (in NC) is “requiring” that students buy a text-messaging enabled phone and a plan from the uni so alerts can be passed to the student in case of another “Virginia Tech” incident. This is all being pushed under the “its for your safety” bit.

My co-workers have been trying to figure out if FSU is going to force you to buy the phone and plan if you already have a phone and plan. It sure isn’t cheap, and most of the people going there already can’t afford much after tuition and books….

Ferin says:

Not a great idea

I do like the timer feature, that actually seems pretty nice. A lot of the students that got in trouble on our campus ended up alone because they just couldn’t find somebody to walk home with, or the people that had gone with them ditched out early.

On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of forcing already cash strapped students to buy into a mandatory phone and phone plan. I hope they have somebody who’s independant of both the phone provider and the university keeping an eye on the money. It’d be a shame to see something like this come to similar ends as some of the college loan corporation business up in NY.

Gaven.Chen (user link) says:

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