University administrators select safety application finalists, students consider future implementation

'LiveSafe,' 'Circle of 6' give users easy emergency contact access, increase perceived safety

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University administrators has selected LiveSafe and Circle of 6 as finalists for the app to be promoted to the University community and incorporated into the Office of Emergency Preparedness’s existing measures.

The search for an effective safety app to promote among students has been ongoing since the disappearance of second-year College student Hannah Graham last fall.

Administrators, including Dean of Students Allen Groves, reached out to the student body for input in the final selection. Groves sent an email to Lawn residents and said the objective is to identify an application which has a low cost, does not feel intrusive and could be easily used if a student is panicked or impaired.

Student Council President Jalen Ross, a fourth-year Engineering student, said Council played a role in making the decision to promote an application.

“Student Council called for using technology that we’ve all got in our pockets all the time to try to keep people safer,” he said.

Ross also said efforts from the administration to consider student input are key to making the best selection.

“I am glad that [the administration] has made the effort to make sure that whatever application they choose is one students would like,” Ross said. “[Groves] understands that a group of 50-something administrators in a room aren’t going to be able to adequately assess how well a group of students are going to receive an app like that.”

Second-year College student Samantha Westrum was among students who first tested various application features before providing the administration with feedback.

“I walk home from the library late, pretty frequently,” she said. “I really thought it was worth my while to test these out for the Safety Commission of the Office of Emergency [Preparedness].”

Westrum said the features in Circle of 6 can be used to contact close friends and contacts in case of an emergency or uncomfortable situation. It can be personalized individually by adding different contacts, including University police.

“[Circle of 6] is great if you need to contact someone directly and quickly with a message,” Westrum said.

LiveSafe is primarily an emergency application, which “facilitates discreet and risk-free bystander intervention by community members through information sharing with campus safety officials,” the developer’s website said.

SafeWalk, a feature of LiveSafe, has a very similar function to Circle of 6.

“You can plug in your info and location, and with someone else’s number in the application they can walk to you,” Westrum said. “If someone is following or walking with you, [SafeWalk] can make you feel comfortable.”

Both Westrum and Ross noted benefits of LiveSafe.

“[LiveSafe] is well-designed,” Ross said. “It lets you talk to the police if you need to, lets you file reports, gives you a lot of support options. It rolls all the things we would like someone to have in their pocket and puts it in their pocket.”

Westrum said she feels the community is safe, but that implementing an application would provide a sense of security to students and members of the community.

“I think that Charlottesville is safe, but walking down Wertland can be scary,” Westrum said. “I think that such an application can make it feel much safer.”

Westrum also said incorporating an application into everyday safety measures may strengthen the University community.

“[Adopting an application] would continue to perpetuate the sense of community that we share and continue to improve the University as we all pledged to do so after last semester,” Westrum said.

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