To help students who do not feel safe walking home by themselves, first-year College student Jack Capra has enlisted the support of Student Council and Associate Dean of Students Marsh Pattie to create Buddies on Call.
The goal of the project, which Council formally established during its Tuesday meeting, is to establish a service wherein students can call in and request two student volunteers come to walk them home.
Capra and second-year College student Abraham Axler, chair of Council's representative body, are co-chairs of a committee created specially by Council to launch the initiative.
Axler said volunteers with the program will need to be on alert for intoxicated people, unsafe situations and instances when intervention is necessary.
“[The volunteers need] to be accountable for their shift and motivated to help people,” Axler said. “Everyone is a bystander and one of our foremost goals is to build a culture where everyone knows how to be an active bystander."
Council will have a meeting next week with a number of administrators to determine possible liability issues in launching the program.
Second-year College student Renee Colligan said there is a need for improved safety at the University.
“There are times when SafeRide isn't available yet and I wish it was,” Colligan said.
Axler said the program is necessary because there are gaps in what SafeRide can offer students, adding that the service lacks a personal touch which he hopes Buddies on Call can provide.
“There’s a real lapse with SafeRide,” Axler said. “There’s a big chunk of time when students may have gone out but want to go home but SafeRide isn’t available.”
A system similar to Buddies on Call, called Safe Walk, was discontinued by Council several years ago because students did not utilize the program, Pattie said.
Axler said the new initiative is better positioned for success.
“There’s been a real shift in cultural awareness [so] people are far more willing to use a service like this,” Axler said.
But not all students agree such a program is necessary.
“I don’t see the point when there’s SafeRide already,” said fourth-year College student Chesea Nwap.
Fourth-year Commerce student Alvin Kuai said students who want to ensure the safety of others should volunteer with the SafeRide program to reform it.
“Students with cars could volunteer to do what Safe Ride does basically; that way you wouldn't have to wait so long to get SafeRide,” Kuai said. “I feel like driving makes more sense than walking.”
Nwapa said she would not feel comfortable walking home with a student she had not met before.
Colligan said she would feel comfortable as long as the students are officially a part of Buddies on Call.
“We are very excited about the idea and believe it represents a great example of student self-governance and students taking care of one another,” Pattie said.