University of Toronto Engineering Students Launch Haven Campus Security App – The Varsity
Content Warning: This article deals with sexual assault and harassment.
Nelson Lee, director of applied science and engineering at UTSU, and his fellow computer engineering student Ethan Hugh have designed an app to help improve student safety on campus.
The app, called Haven, is meant to help students feel more secure by connecting them with their trusted contacts – also known as their “Angels” – and emergency services. The idea for Haven came to Lee after struggling to find proactive tools for students to help keep them safe on campus.
“I saw that a friend of mine posted about her sexual assault experience on campus on her Instagram account, and to me that was quite shocking, ”he said. Lee explained that they had brainstormed several ideas to improve student safety, such as legal clinics for survivors, but ultimately decided on a more proactive and preventative tool for students – an app to which students can access from their phone.
Campus security data analysis
Lee and Hugh highlighted the Ontario government’s findings Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey, conducted in 2018, attended by more than 160,000 students across the province. The survey measured how respondents perceive, understand and react to sexual violence. The post-secondary student survey found that 63.2 percent of university students had experienced sexual harassment.
The Haven co-founders also conducted an internal survey of more than 250 respondents who they said corroborated this conclusion. Of the respondents, 83 percent said they did not feel safe outside their home at night without friends or family.
“These numbers, along with our own internal poll, showed just how widespread this problem is, and there isn’t much going on at the moment that is really having an impact. [individuals] on a personal level in their day to day life, ”said Lee.
Sexual violence and face-to-face learning
Hugh, who is Haven’s chief technology officer, also added that distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic has affected levels of sexual assault and harassment on college campuses. “WWe spoke with a few experts who worked in crisis centers and one of them mentioned that this year, because the university was online, they got a lot less calls, which shows how it’s actually happening on college campuses.
Designed through the accredited NEST Hatchery program, a University of Toronto startup incubator, Haven allows its users to activate ’emergency mode’ where the app alerts your list of trusted contacts with your status. and your location. It also allows you to call useful contacts, like your angels and emergency services, and provides you with a script that includes details required by emergency operators. The app also allows its users to set a “destination timer” to let your loved ones know when you get home safely.
Advice from aspiring entrepreneurs
The new second-year engineering students also spoke with University on the enriching experience of entrepreneurship. Unlike internships where students may have a specific role, starting a business enterprise involves wearing multiple hats.
“We had to do everything ourselves, from developing the app, designing the user interface and experience, integrating our business, going to the bank and opening a bank account, [or] do the marketing ”, Lee said University.
The app can be found in the App Store and the Google Play Store under the name Haven – Security Alert & Locator. The co-founders said University that they will also include QR codes for the app on posters around the University of Toronto.
In addition to its speed and reliability, what sets Haven apart from other security applications is the emphasis its founders placed on maintaining the privacy of its users. “We want to empower you, not rob you of your freedom,” the co-founders wrote.
If you or someone you know has been sexually abused or harassed at the University of Toronto:
- Visit security.utoronto.ca for a list of security resources.
- Visit svpscentre.utoronto.ca for more information, contact details and opening hours of the sexual violence prevention and support center on all three campuses. Center staff can be reached by phone at 416-978-2266 or by email at [email protected].
- Call campus police to report at 416-978-2222 (for U of T St. George and U of T Scarborough) or 905-569-4333 (for U of T Mississauga)
- Call the Women’s College Hospital Sexual Assault and Family Violence Care Center at 416 323-6040.
- Call the Scarborough Grace Sexual Assault Care Center at 416-495-2555
- Call the Abused Women Helpline at 866-863-0511