Senate plans "safe ride" program for students
Published: Friday, November 3, 2006
Updated: Sunday, August 17, 2008 13:08
The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate has proposed a new, student-run, "safe ride" program. The proposal, enacted at the beginning of this month, aims to prevent the discomfort of students walking home late at night.
The new program was first proposed by sophomore Administration and Policy Committee co-Chair Pooja Chokshi in response to the low popularity of the Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) safe-ride service.
Chokshi is banking on the student-run aspect of the program to ensure its success.
"Obviously late at night on the weekends, many of these students are going to be somewhat intoxicated and will therefore not feel comfortable calling TUPD for their escort service even though they don't feel safe walking back to their dorm," she said.
"By separating the escort service from TUPD, students would feel more comfortable utilizing it."
A positive response from the TUPD for a revamped escort service provided even further stimulus for the change.
"It became really clear when talking with [TUPD] Captain Mark Keith that the police-run program was being used minimally, if at all," freshman Senator Corey Briskin, a primary advocate for the service's installment, said.
"Mostly, its use seems to come from students who are cold in the wintertime, but that's really not what the program is designed for. It is not meant to be a taxi service."
Over the last academic year, the highest number of calls for any given month was approximately 56 last February, and the lowest, disregarding the summer months, was only five in May.
"It looks like the safety escorts tend to fluctuate with the weather, from which one would believe that it is not so much for safety as for convenience that students are calling," Keith said. "I think in general, the student-run service is a good idea, but it will take a lot of work and a lot of time to work out the logistics."
"It would be cool to have a student-run service, because right now, if you were to call the police for an escort, you would feel like you were taking them away from something that they could better be tending to," sophomore Ansley Fones said.
Just the fact that TUPD would not be involved appears to play a significant role in student encouragement of the proposal.
"As a guy, I'm not sure that I would find the need to use the campus escort service," freshman Matt White said. "However, I would definitely rather call my fellow peers than the cops."
Several weeks ago, Briskin initiated the research process by contacting universities in the country with demographics similar to Tufts, including Bowdoin College, Brandeis University and Northwestern University. He discovered that Northwestern has implemented a successful program called Saferides.
"Of course, we wanted to be student-run. That weeded out all of the schools that had police-run programs," Briskin said. "I found Northwestern's program to be an excellent model for the Tufts program, because it really gets so much use."
According to Briskin, the increasingly popular Saferides serves over 55,000 people annually, and averages 243 passengers on a given night - much more than can be expected for the Tufts model simply based on the size disparity between the two schools.
A primary concern is minimizing overall costs for the program, as funding has yet to be established.
"Because of the late-night hours that the service would be available, we were interested in seeing if a van owned by the Office of Student Activities could be used, considering that they wouldn't need the van at those times," Briskin said. "That way, we wouldn't have to incur the additional cost of purchasing a vehicle."
The committee is also considering subsidized pay for student employees, a base location for the service, basic expenditure funding and driver qualifications.
"I found that our pay for the student driver and dispatcher could definitely be subsidized via Student Employment," Briskin said. "This subsidy should help attract students to work for the long hours that this service requires."
Efforts to find a late-night location are still ongoing, but the committee has tried to secure a space in the Tufts Student Resources building, located at 17 Chetwynd Road.
"Trying to find a space for such late hours has been a concern," Briskin said. "We had already ruled out TUPD ,because we wanted to keep the service unaffiliated with the police. Also, the Campus Center, another consideration for a headquarters, closes before the service will end each night."
The committee hopes to smooth out these unanswered questions by Thanksgiving so that December can be devoted primarily to polishing the final details and ensuring the success of the service. The program is projected to begin at the start of the spring semester.
"I would like to have a very primitive version of this program up and running at the beginning of second semester," Briskin said. "While this isn't supposed to be used by students wishing to earn a free ride uphill, it will get more use in the wintertime. Weather is just another consideration."
While there are still kinks to be worked out, the committee is optimistic that the student-run nature of the service will allow it to exceed the popularity of its predecessor.
"I see the service as being very much beneficial to the students ... With students themselves running it, there will be a new level of comfort," sophomore Matthew Shapanka, committee co-Chair, said.