Walking the safe walk
After a semester-long hiatus, the student-run service SafeWalk is ready to do its job once again. Now backed by an executive board and a faculty advisor, SafeWalk was reactivated on March 27.
Since 1996, SafeWalk has provided Carnegie Mellon students, faculty, and staff with a secure escort across campus from 10 pm to 2 am every night of the week.
“We’re really here to make the campus safer and to help people feel comfortable about walking around at night,” said Ben Mullican, a senior mechanical engineering major and SafeWalk’s executive director.
The program’s problems began two years ago, when senior chemical major Ann Shchelokova and three other volunteers were in charge of SafeWalk, with dean Jennifer Church in an advisory role.
After a semester, Shchelokova found herself running the program alone, and began strengthening the program’s foundation. By the spring semester of last year, the program was finally successful again.
“It was one of the best semesters SafeWalk had,” Shchelokova stated in an e-mail. “We had at least three volunteers every night.”
Eventually Shchelokova no longer felt like she could carry the weight of an entire organization on her shoulders. “One person was not enough,” she stated.
Changes in leadership led to the time off. During the hiatus, the new faculty advisor Rahmon Hart, student development coordinator, recruited Mullican. Other recruits included junior electrical and computer engineering major Dan Horbatt as public relations director and sophomore chemistry major Suvana Hashim as scheduling director.
“We function as a group so that no one of us is carrying the whole team,” Mullican said.
With stable leadership that promises continuity, Mullican hopes to also make a change in SafeWalk’s approach to recordkeeping.
“Ideally, we will be keeping track of users’ Andrew IDs so that we can get some feedback,” Mullican said. Right now, SafeWalk volunteers keep track of names, times, and places of pick up and drop off in log booklets.
Now, the next step is getting the word out for volunteers and for the service itself. Most of the current volunteers were recruited by word of mouth.
“Since a lot of them are our friends, we can attest to their non-sketchiness,” Horbatt said, noting more help is needed.
Mullican said that, as of now, he just requests that volunteers stay for the full four-hour shift.
“Students are already awake at all hours of the night at Carnegie Mellon, and it’s great to see them coming together in order to benefit the community,” Hashim said.
SafeWalk is currently located in the Scotland Yard game room of the University Center basement, but according to Mullican will soon be moving outside of Andy’s, also in the UC basement. Each shift requires three volunteers: one taking calls on dispatch, and two walkers.
Walkers are each given a whistle, a cell phone, and an official SafeWalk badge for the trek they both make.
“We want enough volunteers so that we can have one male and one female walker per shift,” Mullican said. “That way there won’t be any issues with the callers’ comfort levels.”
Volunteer Reid Barnett, a first-year mathematical sciences major, recently walked a student from the library back to her off-campus apartment. “I thought it was a positive experience and that students are more comfortable walking with other students than with campus police,” he said.
For SafeWalk volunteers, the organization’s future looks bright: “I feel that once more people find out about it, the service will become much more useful,” Barnett said.
SafeWalk can be reached from 10 pm to 2 am every night of the week at x8-SAFE. Students interested in volunteering should contact Ben Mullican at firstname.lastname@example.org.