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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 6:05pm

    Next up
    Camera Phones that always transmit.
    That way they can watch that your safely arrive and that no one is forcing you to turn off your timer.

    After that they can keep watch over you while you sleep.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Panaqqa, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 6:07pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 6:40pm

    Oh come on, this is how colleges work. They make everyone pay for this crap, arguing that everyone is better off because the economies of scale can forge a better deal for students. (except you are still extorted for textbooks--this is tradition). Mandatory meal plans, anyone? Forced dormitory residence?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 6:49pm

    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 !

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Cynic, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 7:01pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    General Eskimo, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 8:03pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 8:31pm

    you guys are missing the point. the point is to get ppl used to walking around and having their location tracked at all times. To become comfortable with it. A normal part of life. Be afraid, very afraid !

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 9:01pm

    Hello Big Brother!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 9:01pm

    @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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Technofear (profile), Dec 4th, 2007 @ 11:26pm

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 11:31pm

    But is it the job of a university to teach students to accept the tracking of their daily movements as an inevitable part of every day life ?

    Accept it or be gone ? Where ideas are open to debate and encouraged, the systematic and undemocratic violation of a students basic civil liberties, in the name of security is ok ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    drewmerc, Dec 5th, 2007 @ 12:39am

    this is so wrong, what's to stop the uni or whoever's in charge from tracking you at all times

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    David, Dec 5th, 2007 @ 1:41am


    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Fred Smith, Dec 5th, 2007 @ 4:14am

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anon Jr, Dec 5th, 2007 @ 4:52am

    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....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Ferin, Dec 5th, 2007 @ 5:14am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Danny, Dec 5th, 2007 @ 5:51am

    I'm with Panaqqa

    I get the feeling that someone is getting a kickback even if its not the manufacturer of the phones. It could be that after this plan is implimented that tuition will increase "cover the costs" of the new system...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Jimbo, Dec 6th, 2007 @ 10:10am

    If they really wanted to have a safe environment, the People's Republic of New Jersey should make it easier for its citizens to carry concealed firearms. A lot of bad stuff can happen to someone before these dumb phone alarms go off and the campus rent-a-cops arrive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    another mike, Dec 6th, 2007 @ 3:29pm

    Maryland alum

    University of Maryland just extended the blue poles out into the surrounding area. Happened during the housing crunch around 2001. Little blue lights stretching out up the trails to all the popular off-campus student housing areas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    on the other hand, Dec 6th, 2007 @ 3:47pm


    things wouldn't have gone so far in Virginia if something like this was in place. Bitch because colleges want more security measures, bitch because security is insufficient.

    I know just bitch.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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