Written By: Meghan LeVota, Startland News
College campuses aren't the safest place to be.
Nearly one in four female college students in the U.S. have experienced sexual assault. In the same study, 11 percent of female college students said they’ve experienced rape. And since 2013, there has been more than 76 instances of gun violence on college campuses.
Campus Eye founder Rob Sweeney knows the statistics, and since 2014 his company has set out to make schools safer. Sweeny’s firm created an interactive communication app that allows students to easily report safety, facilities or maintenance issues to administration.
The tool also aims to give victims a voice, he said.
“We’re trying to do our part with something that we think is pretty powerful,” Sweeney said. “One of the things we’ve learned about campus sexual assault is the fear that a number of the victims feel when coming forward. What we want to do is give them a tool that will erase some of those fears.”
Universities that adopt Campus Eye begin the process by notifying students about the app — through email, posters or the school website — and directing them to download it. To sign up, students select their university, enter their contact information and any relevant health conditions in case of an emergency.
Once logged in, students can create and send reports by including a photo and a description of the incident. Campus Eye users may choose to file a report anonymously and receive alerts through push notifications.
The customizable mass notification system can alert students with whatever information the administration needs — whether that be a robbery on campus, sexual assault or an alert that a student’s submission has been viewed.
Costs vary for schools based on their number of students, from $1,250 to $7,000 per year.
Campus Eye was tested in 2014 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of Central Missouri, Missouri Southern State University and Rockhurst University. The service is now used in over 30 college campuses across the nation and is expanding into the K – 12 market.
“We’re pretty aggressive right now,” Sweeney said. “Through this school year we’d like to see it grow to at least several hundred schools across the country.”
This summer, Campus Eye gained many new clients from Minnesota due to a new state law that requires universities to provide online anonymous sexual assault reporting tools for students. 24 Minnesota schools in total are now using Campus Eye’s tech.
Regardless of whether Missouri, Kansas or other states follow Minnesota’s lead, Sweeney said the political climate is leading private institutions in that direction.
Sweeney said that Campus Eye increases efficiency and effectiveness and can prevent campus turmoil when events do happen. One example Sweeney cited was an incident at the University of Missouri when bomb threats on campus were circulated on social media— along with erroneous information. Had Campus Eye been available, administrators could’ve notified students with verified information.
An obstacle Sweeney faces, however, is reaching the decision makers that could implement such a system.
“The challenge for us in reaching these schools is finding the right people to talk to,” Sweeney said. “You can talk to the campus police and they may be interested, but then the facilities people might not have an interest. It’s really until the right people understand what this product can do will it be effective.”
Campus Eye is ambitious about getting the mobile app in the hands of teachers in the K-12 market and recently established a working relationship with Raytown School District. The company is also developing a tool for corporate offices.