Escort Service facing a quandary

By Hanh Quach

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A lack of volunteers may force the ASUA Escort Service to shut down its nighttime campus safety program, its director said.

Of the more than 50 volunteers needed to efficiently serve students with minimal response time, the service now runs on less than 20 volunteers, said Tim Walker, political science senior and Escort Service director.

"Campus safety is a major concern and the escort service needs people to volunteer a couple hours of their time to help run this service," said Associated Students President Ben Driggs.

Last pay period, Walker and his assistant director, Peter Seiferth, contributed more than 200 hours of work.

"I'd like to think there are a few less crimes reported in the 'Police Beat' because I was here," Seiferth said.

Armed with a brand new mini-van, a one-year-old electric-powered golf cart and a gas-powered cart on the way, Walker and staff must transport disabled students to their classes during the day.

Students who need rides dial 621-SAFE and a driver responds as quickly as possible, Walker said, "sometimes a ride will be waiting before they hang up the phone."

"Without this service, traveling would be cumbersome," said Jaime Houston, a veterinary science freshman who rides to classes from her residence at Coconino Hall. Ordinarily on crutches, it would take Houston more than 15 minutes to travel to class. She heard about this service at her freshman orientation.

Sunday through Thursday nights, the service is open to anyone needing an escort from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Volunteers escort students from place to place sometimes beyond a one-mile radius off campus as safely as possible at night.

"My service has the potential to mean life and death to somebody," Walker said.

Helen Moultrie, a psychology senior, said she would not come to campus after nightfall if the service did not exist.

"I don't want to depend on my friends to drive me around all the time and I don't want to walk in the dark," said Amy Norris, a sophomore who hails the white mini-van regularly after working at Yokohama Rice Bowl on Speedway Boulevard. "Take advantage of it, because it's like a free cab ride and it's safe."

Escorting began Aug. 27 this year, before the third day of classes. In past years, service did not begin until after the second full week of school, Walker said, but adjusting the daytime service to coincide with the beginning of school to better serve students.

Since Walker became director May 1, he has implemented many changes in the Escort Service agenda.

"This service has the largest potential constituency in ASUA. I feel like it is my personal responsibility to change it and make it better," Walker said.

Among those changes, Walker said, "Outreach, publicity and recruiting are done on a larger scale." In his crusade for campus safety, Walker advertises his service to more than 65 groups, which include freshman orientations, large 100-level classes, sororities, residence halls, half a dozen clubs and the entire women's studies department.

Although most riders are women, Walker encourages men to use it also. He mainly visits fraternities to recruit volunteers.

"Compared with other campuses, our service is quite extensive," said Gaurav Parnami, a biology senior who volunteers to dispatch calls. "I like being part of such a good program."

The escort service receives $25,000 in federal grants to maintain the mandated escort service for the disabled by the American Disabilities Act, Driggs said.

In addition, Driggs has recommended an additional $5,000 from the ASUA budget to help fund the nighttime service.

"ASUA has invested much money into the Escort Service and I hope students will take advantage of the service and volunteer to help maintain its high level of performance," Driggs said.

For more information about volunteering for the Escort Service, call 621-ASUA or pick up an application at the ASUA office.

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