A Small Step For Campus Safety: New Nighttime Ride Share Service Launches at the U

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A Small Step For Campus Safety: New Nighttime Ride Share Service Launches at the U

(Photo by Justin Prather | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

(Photo by Justin Prather | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

(Photo by Justin Prather | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

(Photo by Justin Prather | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Angelyn Ramos

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Within the Academic year of 2018-2019, the University of Utah witnessed very violent and very public crimes. In October of 2018, senior and All-Star track athlete Lauren McCluskey was murdered on campus. A few months later a student was sexually assaulted in the parking lot of the Marriott library. Since these events have taken place, students have desperately voiced their need for more thorough safety measures throughout the U’s campus. Fear has grown and mistrust in campus safety began to appear.

The U currently sits at an enrollment number of roughly 33,000 students and approximately 20% of those students live on campus. Housing and Residential Education (HRE), as well as Commuter Services, have been working fervently behind the scenes to help aide in student safety measures. In light of recent events, HRE and Commuter Services have proposed a new shuttle system which would operate similarly to Lyft or Uber. It would be a way for students of the U to securely get around campus in the late hours of the night when crimes are most likely to happen.

Alma Alfred, the Director of the University of Utah Commuter Services, explained this new program. She said, “It’s not necessarily a ride-sharing app. It’s more a dedicated sedan service, driven by students. In order to use the program, students must have an app and must be a current student of the U. So they must have a uID. The program will begin at 6 p.m. and continue until a half-hour after the library closes. It will pick you up anywhere from campus and take you anywhere on campus. If the cars are not in service, the app will notify you.”

When asked for further detail about the vehicles that will be in service, Alma said that “they will be cars unless the individual is handicapped. In which case they will need to state that, so they can be picked up in an appropriate and capable vehicle.”

The U is not the first university to implement a program such as this. In fact, Alfred stated that “Ohio State University and several other universities have programs similar to ours, which we studied while looking at how to start this program.”

Ohio State University has double the amount of students the U currently has, sitting at just over 66,000 students. OSU has a ride-sharing service which is a bit more literal in a sense. They have a shared Facebook page where students who are interested can join and post where they will be driving, or where they need a ride to. From there, students can coordinate riding to different destinations together. The page is exclusive to current OSU students and allows students to go beyond their campus, whereas the U’s ride-sharing service will not allow travel off the campus. The U drew the majority of their inspiration from the peer to peer aspect of other programs since that is where the majority of Universities have found a considerable amount of their successes. Students seem to be more likely to trust their own peers.

When asked how the hiring process worked, Alfred said, “All students were hired and screened through the typical process of the U’s human resources.” Alfred also said that “We started this program because of the safety concerns for students at night. We’ve seen lots of success with other universities’ peer-to-peer ride-share programs, and we hope to see the same success.”

Presently the new program and the new app are set to launch on Aug. 19, the first day of the Fall 2019 semester. Alfred explained the role that HRE has in this program and said, “HRE has helped and will continue to help us advertise and educate our current and incoming students about this program.” When the HRE offices were contacted they emphasized the previous statement from Alfred. A representative from the HRE offices stated that “Commuter Services are the ones who are really highlighting and coordinating the program, HRE isn’t necessarily involved in coordinating the program. Just in supporting and promoting to our residents.”

Ultimately this is a small but significant change towards the direction of a safer campus. This new program is a two-fold security measure for students. It helps to alleviate some of the concerns regarding safely traveling the massive campus at night. Additionally, it helps to reestablish rapport with students and their families — where trust has been previously lost — ensuring that student safety is indeed a priority. This new program can be used in addition to the current Campus Escorts and other safety measures that are already put in place.

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@ChronyAng