Student Organization Senator Jackie Palacios was in the Lastinger Parking Structure at around midnight in September when a car began to follow her as she walked back from the gym, she said.
After reporting the incident to Public Safety, Palacios decided to propose Safe Walk, a buddy system available Monday through Thursday for students walking around campus late at night.
“I think there’s that feeling of familiarity of student-to-student. It’s a casual encounter, rather than having a figure of authority doing it,” Palacios said.
Her idea was to create a “grassroots” community program made up of paid Chapman students, who would escort other students from class or the library on campus and back to their dorms late at night. Palacios was inspired by similar programs at other schools, such as one at the University of Texas at Austin called Sure Walk. Palacios said that Wil Harris, who is also a student organization senator and was the main senator supporting the initiative, also looked at a similar-minded program at UCLA called Evening Escorts.
Public Safety’s Operation Saferide, which provides transport to students, staff and faculty from the evening until the early hours of the morning, is a similar program. However, Underclassman Senator Saba Amid said that, while Saferide is intended for late-night, weekend drives to student residences, Safe Walk is primarily concentrated on campus.
Harris said that student government worked with Public Safety to get the program approved, and that it falls under the department’s jurisdiction because it involves student wellbeing.
Harris said that after he and President Mitchell Rosenberg reached out to Public Safety Chief Burba to discuss the program’s potential, they showed him model examples of similar programs at other institutions to incorporate at Chapman.
“Public Safety approved it, but then we had to schedule meetings with human resources (to address liability concerns) and financial services, after which the program was formally approved and given funding,” Harris said.
Safe Walk also increases student employment. Harris said that Public Safety did all of the hiring for the program over interterm and that the job postings are no longer available. Public Safety declined to release how much students will be paid.
In its infancy, the program seems to be well received by the student body.
“As a whole, Chapman is actually one of the safer campuses I’ve been on, so I’m glad they keep taking more initiatives to make it even better and better,” said Josh Best, a freshman news and documentary major.