Lending a Hand Across Campus

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When students find their way filing out of the library on the verge of midnight, making their way to their dorm that may be on the opposite side of campus, fellow students willing to give them a lift are now just a phone call away.

With the renewal of the Safety Escort Program, students and faculty on campus will be able to receive rides from anywhere on campus to any other location on campus between 8:30 p.m. and 12:15 a.m. Monday through Thursday. The hours and days the program operates were chosen primarily to mirror library hours. A total of 10 student ambassadors are employed by the program, with two ambassadors working each night and using a jeep to transport up to three students at a time.

While student ambassador and fourth-year linguistics major Margaux Garcia has been training and preparing for this program since September, the ultimate goal for her is simple.

“If [students and faculty] want a really reliable and safe way to get home, we’re available to them,” Garcia said.

The pilot program, which began on Jan. 21, is very similar to the safety escort program held between February and June 2013. The main difference between the programs comes down to staffing and funding.

While the 2013 program was run by Community Safety Officers (CSOs), this year’s program will be operated solely by student ambassadors of the campus police department and funded by the UCSC Parents Fund.

Apart from funding and student operation of the new program, Garcia said the 2014 program also differs in its relationship with campus police.

“The goal is the same [as the previous program], such as nighttime safety for students,” Garcia said, “but all the resources of the police department are helpful, and there’s a relationship there.”

In a similar vein, police Chief Nader Oweis recognized the use of student ambassadors in the program as an opportunity to increase student employment, but more importantly to bolster overall student safety.

“[The police department] wanted to provide another opportunity to keep students safe. That’s our primary goal,” Oweis said.

Student ambassador and fourth- year politics major Victoria Anderson echoes Oweis’ belief in the numerous benefits of the program.

“[The escort program is] student-run, so it’s a service that not only helps students, but provides jobs for other students too,” Anderson said. “It also gives [the ambassadors] responsibility, leadership and skills, so it’s a wonderful program.”

The program largely grew out of recognizing the strength of safety programs at other UCs, Garcia said. UC Davis offers the Aggie Host Security Service (AHS) team, which provides both a nighttime escort program, as well as special event security. UC Santa Barbara’s Community Service Organization also provides a strong escort program.

Anderson noted the program will help compensate for the removal of kiosk guards on campus this year.

In order to establish the program to the status of the other UC escort programs, Garcia and fourth-year student ambassador Maria Ramirez have been developing a training manual for the program since September. Training focused on a wide array of areas, including CPR and first aid training, patrol procedures, driver safety and the legality of the program. With all of these components in mind, the program worked to establish well-rounded and conscientious student escorts, Garcia said.

“We train [all safety escorts] on being responsible members of the service,” Garcia said.

During the first night of the program’s operation on Jan. 21, Garcia said the safety escorts only received one call for an escort. However, the student said they would use the program frequently beyond this initial request, Garcia said.

The remainder of the night was used performing “in field escorts,” or driving through campus and asking students who are walking if they need a ride. Garcia said overall the escorts reported positive feelings all around regarding the program.

In spite of receiving only one call on the first night, Ramirez said 51 people used the service by the end of the first week.

“On the first day, only two and a half pages were filled up, and on the second day there were only three pages, and by the fourth day, there were four pages,” Ramirez said. “It’s slowly getting there — without much advertising, that’s pretty good.”

Aside from the preliminary email sent out by campus police, Chief Oweis said in order to publicize the service to students and faculty, the program will work with housing, all of the colleges and the Student Union Assembly (SUA), as well as tabling at McHenry. Garcia also said they are currently working on flyer designs for passing out and leaving at bus stops.

Another strong component of the safety escort program is that its operation is almost entirely carried out by the student ambassadors. While police dispatch will be available through radio, two student ambassadors operate the program each night. Garcia said it is this aspect of the program that provides accessibility and ease for students not wanting to call a patrol car.

“[Student involvement] will make [the program] a more comfortable experience,” Garcia said. “The interaction will be much less stressful — students can help students.”

As the program moves past its initial stages, Garcia, Ramirez and Anderson each expressed excitement over the beginning results and eventual growth of the program.

The program is in place primarily to serve as a preventive measure for the future, Garcia said. While she currently feels fine about campus safety, Garcia wants to make sure the campus has safety measures to rely on in the future.

“We’re taking control of our own safety,” Garcia said.

 

To request a safety escort, call 831-459-2100