A few years ago, co-founder of the Peace of Mind Company Andrew “AJ” Leahy’s best friend was killed on a college campus. From that, Leahy realized there had to be a more effective way to protect college students.
“When we first started … we set out to build the next generation of safety devices,” said Leahy in an email interview with The Guilfordian. “Our goal since then has been to create a smarter, more effective way of protecting the people we love.”
Leahy’s company sells a device designed to ensure the safety of college students.
“People like that it’s a kind of mobile blue light,” said Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Todd Clark. “It can always be with you.”
The device is a small button that the user presses to call public safety. By connecting to the user’s smartphone though Bluetooth and by accessing its GPS, it gives public safety the user’s location, as well as any relevant information they choose to share, such as allergies.
“In a crisis, you don’t have to pull your phone out, unlock it, put the code in, find contact information for public safety, which you may not have where it’s easy to find if you even have it in your phone, and make a call,” said Clark. “That’s the advantage of this device.”
Guilford College has been in contact with POMCO since last year.
“Todd Clark came across it and brought it up to Community Senate to fund as part of their capital project,” said student ambassador for POMCO and senior Molly Anne Marcotte. “We held multiple Senate meetings about it, and held multiple focus groups on campus with key student leaders in campus safety.
“With the approval of the campus, we passed a subsidy deal in which Senate set aside enough of their rollover budget to pay for half of each student’s POM.”
The device was given to all resident advisors, community directors and public safety officers for free, although some of the RA’s have already offered criticism.
“We didn’t want them,” said senior Jocelyn Foshay, who is an RA in Shore Hall. “A bunch of RA’s asked if we could opt to just not have them.”
A lot of these feelings come from the amount of money being spent and how they will be used by RA’s.
“I think it’s a good idea, but I really wish that money was going more into making it cheaper for students,” said senior Colin Nollet, an RA in the north apartments.
“When we get into emergency situations, it’s normally not our emergencies, so it doesn’t feel right that (we are the ones) getting them. I would understand if it was a thing that all students were getting them for free.”
According to Foshay, Senate spent approximately $20,000 on POM devices.
“When did we decide we were going to spend $20,000 on teenage life-alert?” said Foshay. “I just want to know when we voted on them and when it was a community decision to spend all this money when the ceiling in Bryan is leaking.”
The reason the device has cost the school $20,000 is because the device itself is $40, but the school has subsidized the cost, making it only $20 for students.
“Its uses are applicable to any day of the week, from walking back from the library on a late school night to witnessing a crisis at a party on a Saturday,” said Marcotte. “If you divide the cost by the approximately 196 days of the year you spend on campus for fall and spring terms, you spend approximately 10 cents per day on a device that could service you, or a nearby peer, everyday.”
For many students, however, even that is not worth the cost.
“If I can, I’m always going to call P Safe first,” said Nollet. “I’m always going to get out my phone rather than pull out this device.”
Still, many students on campus feel safer with the POM.
“The folks with which I have spoken express how innovative they find the device,” said Marcotte. “We will gather data this year on the most common scenarios in which students use the device, and measure its effectiveness against prior Public Safety response time and quality.”
POMCO also hopes to keep building a connection with Guilford.
“We’re really excited to work with Guilford,” said Leahy. “Everyone I’ve met I’ve been a fan of.”