Two very different approaches to campus security

Sophisticated Mobile App or an Armoured Truck? Tough Call

The Chronicle of Higher Education had an interesting report on the introduction of ‘LiveSafe’, a mobile app that was adopted by the university in August and has been downloaded 4,200 times:

“We get the luxury of getting a lot of information from the students because we have this platform that is really, really easy to use,” Mr. Venuti says, noting that students can text alerts to officials anonymously if they chose. “These kids are text-driven. They are mobile-device-driven. They can text faster than any of us can probably type.”

LiveSafe, according to the report, was co-founded by a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, and is one of a number of similar apps being snapped up by colleges to help with emergency comms and response. This kind of technology is apparently gaining momentum in the US “amid a national conversation about campus safety that extends all the way to the White House”:

In some ways, the technology moves institutions beyond mass-alerting systems, which became a legal requirement in the wake of Virginia Tech and allow colleges to send out emergency notifications by email, text message, and loudspeaker, among other mediums.

While specific features vary, many of the new apps can be integrated into existing alerting infrastructures while also creating a two-way channel of communication. Users send written or visual messages tagged with their GPS location to public-safety officials, who monitor the apps’ back-end dashboards through web browsers, typically on monitors in command centers or on laptops in patrol cars. Officials can respond to alerts with follow-up questions or specific instructions.

It’s smart stuff and sadly likely to be very useful at US campuses where there seem to be fairly frequent severe incidents at universities.

Meanwhile, over at Ohio State University…

Huffington Post reports that the University has acquired Military-Style Armoured Truck.

There are no suggestions that Ohio State has had a problem with roadside bombs recently but they do now have a response to such eventualities. It is, apparently, a “mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle”. It’s army surplus we are told:

The 19-ton armored truck (specifically, a “MaxxPro,” manufactured by the Illinois defense-vehicle maker Navistar) is built to withstand “ballistic arms fire, mine fields, IED’s, and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical environments,” according to its product description.

This does seem a little over the top – surely things at US universities aren’t this bad?

It does look like the app may have a little more value than the truck but we’ll have to wait and see.

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Exam stress? Head for the puppy room

It’s furry therapy apparently.

yep. a puppy room

Indeed. A puppy room

Last year we heard that Dalhousie University in Canada had provided a puppy room to help students deal with exam stress. Now it seems that another university has joined in and, according to the Huffington Post, Aberdeen Students are also getting a puppy room to help them relax during revision:

Stressed out students at Aberdeen University in Scotland are going to be given a special room on campus to calm down with puppies during the exam period.

Aberdeen University’s Exam Welfare Initiative is teaming up with Guide Dogs For The Blind Association to offer the furry therapy after receiving positive feedback from students.

Emma Carlen, Aberdeen University’s president of societies and student activities, said in a statement: “We got a really positive reaction to that from both the guide dogs and the students, it really chilled them out, so that encouraged us to get this set up for the exam period.”

They are setting up a rooms on campus between the 13th and 23rd May. The university is also offering smoothie and apple give aways to calm stressed out students as well as onsite-massage at the library, yoga taster sessions a health walk on the beach.

Last October, researchers at Hiroshima University in Japan found that photos of kittens, puppies and the like don’t just make people feel better – they also help them to concentrate.

Don’t know what it will do for NSS scores but wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be an entry in this year’s Times Higher Education awards.

Quidditch World Cup 2013 update

Pottering in the sun

The Huffington Post carries a top sports story on the recent Quidditch World Cup held in Florida:

the majority of teams competing at this level have official uniforms names paying homage to the book series, like the Silicon Valley Skrewts and the Melbourne Manticores.

31Ljvaa4ynL._SL500_Spectators will find many of the same features from the books. Players throw balls or “quaffles” through ringed hoops for points and even can chase and capture the “snitch” to end matches.

And in case any Harry Potter diehards are wondering, yes, all the players also must maneuver around on broomsticks during gameplay. Much like the ability to dunk a basketball is restricted to a gifted few, however, real-life quidditch players have yet to take flight.

A previous post noted the popularity of quidditch in UK universities and its value as a recruitment tool. It seems though that the US, as host to the ‘world cup’ is leading the way in international quidditch competition. Or were there British teams there?

More strange degrees

Odd by degrees

It’s graduation season again and helpfully Huff Post has provided a list of rather strange degrees from the US. Some of these are really rather splendid and include:

Viticulture & Enology: Grape Growing and Winemaking – offered by UC Davis and Cornell University who “take advantage of their ripe location” in providing this degree.

Packaging – Michigan State University offers this one which apparently includes the modules “Packaging with Glass and Metal” and “Packaging with Paper and Paperboard.”

Puppeteering – the University of Connecticut has become “a proud leader in the art of puppeteering” since this course started in 1964.

Comic Art – It seems that Minneapolis College of Art and Design offers a B.F.A in Comic Art. Career options arguably slightly narrow.

Bowling Industry Management and Technology – Delivered by Vincennes University in Indiana, the degree is intended to prepare students for “management of a bowling center, sales and marketing, pro shop operations, and pinsetter mechanics.”

But best of all:

Bagpipes – Since the early 1990s, Carnegie Mellon University has offered a degree in bagpipes.

In an interview with the New York Times in 1990, Marilyn Taft Thomas, head of Carnegie Mellon’s music department stated, “The entire tradition of campus has been to have celebratory bagpiping. It just makes sense for us to acknowledge bagpipes as a legitimate musical instrument.”

This is not the first time this topic has appeared here. A previous post summarised the latest position in the provision of bonkers degrees and earlier items covered similar ground including a zombie course at the University of Baltimore and a course covering Lady Gaga together with a study of Beyonce. Also we previously looked here at the launch of an MA in Beatles Studies and the offer of a degree in Northern Studies as well as offering a podcast on “bonkers or niche” degrees and an MA in horror and transgression at Derby.

It just goes to show. There is a course in just about every subject you care to mention.