It's the program that just won’t quit, even when it should. It appears that SafeWalk is being restarted as part of a joint effort with Women's Transit next fall.
Last year, SafeWalk was an ASWSU safety program that employed on-foot “chaperones” to assist individuals seeking a safe walk home. It was originally established due to the need for a service for students traveling a shorter distance. The program was available Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. It was created as an alternative to Women’s Transit and was utilized by both males and females. However, SafeWalk met its demise not too long after it began, and ASWSU members have since taken it upon themselves to bring it back to life.
This begs the question, why was it unsuccessful the first time? It is rumored by ASWSU members that the service was cancelled last year due to the high cost of background checks necessary for student volunteers. Yet, this is only half of the truth.
There are several reasons why this particular program failed. In reality, the program was discontinued last year due to little use by students, the weather conditions, the lack of highly trained volunteers who proved difficult to monitor and a diminishing image of the program’s reputation.
So what has been changed within the program to make it better this time around? Nothing. Not one aspect has been altered besides the program's name.
“It has a different name, but it’s the same service,” ASWSU Director of Student Life Kyle Erdman said.
Overall, they are banking on sheer luck that it will work out better the second time. Last year they struggled to attract committed and trustworthy volunteers, let alone students who wanted to utilize the service, so what makes them think it will be successful now with no apparent changes made to enhance the program? Apparently, whether it is popular or not, ASWSU is determined to provide a safe walking service for those six to seven people a semester who call for their services.
But really, try to name one college student who does not want the reassurance that someone will be there to hold their hand and walk them across the street when it gets dark outside. The dangerous streets of Pullman frantically plead for well-trained walking buddies, and with the latest drama concerning the man dressed as a werewolf chasing people around campus, we truly do need it now more than ever.
And who wouldn’t want to volunteer for this program? Just think about it, instead of spending some much deserved time with your friends on a weekend night, or cuddling up in your nice warm bed to watch that new DVD release you have been waiting all week to see, you can make a big difference in the Cougar community by trekking through the snow and rain in below freezing temperatures. You could be walking alongside an obscenely drunk girl stumbling along in her skirt and heels, who called you all the way out to the end of Greek Row so you can walk her from a frat house to Munchy'z at 1 a.m. Don’t worry, the whole time you are thinking how volunteering has never felt better.
Everyone likes the promotion of safety on campus for WSU students, which explains why during the 2010-2011 academic year $50,000 was invested in lighting and crosswalk safety. But SafeWalk is not an effective option.
It is about time ASWSU took a hint from last year's SafeWalk experience and put this program back in the trash bin where it belongs – and keep it there for good.