Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
By Elaine Ezekiel News Editor
Student Commission’s Security Safety Advisees Asia Morales ‘15 and Shadae Sutherland ‘14 met with Director of Security Tim Young last Friday to discuss the creation of a safe ride program in partnership with Campus Security.
Safe ride programs generally involve drivers on call, or following along a shuttle path, who offer people free rides at night to save pedestrians a dangerous walk home.
“We just want students to get home safe, regardless of what’s happened to them or what they were doing at that time,” she said.
Morales is a member of Sexual, Safety and Support Alliance, a student group of five women hoping to reduce sexual assault at K by providing confidential support, referrals and accurate information on sexual health and relationships.
Morales said part of S3A’s mission is supporting victims of sexual assault in the aftermath, but that they are interested in establishing a safe ride program to help prevent assault before it occurs.
There have been two recorded instances of forcible or nonforcible sexual assault each year for the past three years on campus, according to the recently released Kalamazoo College Campus Security 2011 Annual Report. That said, the report states sexual assault is under-reported on almost all college campuses, and there is no K-specific data for off-campus assaults.
The concept of a safe ride program at K is not new; in previous years, students have tried to establish lasting safe walk or safe ride programs, though they dissolved due to lack of student use.
There is no solidified proposal for the program yet, but Morales suggests safe ride could operate from around 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights in a roughly two mile radius of campus. Paid or volunteer students drivers would operate the vehicles.
Though he has seen three similar proposed programs fail, Young said his office is more than willing to house the program as long as students do the legwork.
“I think that it’s feasible if the students and StuComm come up with a viable plan, and then I think it might have a chance,” he said.
Jane Huffman ’15 says she often feels uneasy when she walks around Kalamazoo after dark.
“I think people would feel more comfortable if there were safe ride,” she said. “It’s one more thing that might prevent students from getting hurt.”
The proposal has met some skepticism. Morales says she has heard assertions that a safe ride program could create a false sense of safety for students who will give less thought to how they will get home if they know a free car ride is just a phone call away.
“We want to give people the benefit of the doubt that they are being responsible and making these choices responsibly,” she said. “We’re hoping students don’t take advantage of something like that, because there are always students who need it.”
Morales said she would like to have some kind of plan developed by spring quarter, perhaps for a test run.
“We just want to watch out for each other,” she said, “because everyone knows everyone here.”