Companion app an option for students concerned about safety

Bluffton Junior Rachel Keske uses the Companion App to track her movements across campus. Photo by Alexis Edenfield

By Emily Huxman

Some Bluffton University students are downloading and using a new app that may provide an added sense of security in the wake of the presence of an unidentified male in restricted campus spaces this week.

Five University of Michigan students created the Companion app to help college students feel safer on university campuses nationwide. The free app allows students to reach out to friends who can virtually watch their walk home to ensure their safe arrival.

The app has several features including an alarm, an “I feel nervous” button, and a built-in sensor system that alerts your “companions” if users have fallen or changed routes. The app was launched August 2015 and averages 500,000 downloads a week according to USA Today.

According to Bluffton University’s annual crime statistics report, 11 crimes were reported in 2013. While this number is relatively low, students on campus are downloading this app to ensure their safety.

Junior Rachel Keske downloaded the app after hearing about it to ensure her safety around campus.

“Even though I know I live in a safe area, it’s nice to just have the protection of the app ready if I need it,” said Keske.

The app allows universities to register enabling additional features for Companion users on their campuses. One such feature alerts campus security anytime a student calls 911.

Vice President of Student Life Julie DeGraw thinks this app may have some potential at Bluffton University.

“I don’t want to create a culture of fear, but we also need to be proactive about our safety so if this app is something that makes our students feel safer, then I think it’s a good idea,” said DeGraw.

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