By Meredith Howard | Staff Writer
Baylor students have mixed reactions to the news that Baylor University Police Department (BUPD) will no longer offer nighttime campus escorts.
“The escort program is no longer in play,” Mark Childers, associate vice president of Baylor’s Department of Public Safety, said.
BUPD has offered personal escorts in some form for over seven years, allowing students to call the station, state their location and be picked up as soon as an officer can arrive.
Brownsville sophomore Sophia Garza utilized BUPD’s escort service and expressed feeling unsafe upon hearing about the termination of the program.
“I don’t want to risk being unsafe because some police officers feel like they’re ‘being abused’ and that we can’t use them like an Uber, even though that’s what they offer. That’s what I don’t understand—you have this whole Title IX dispute going on and everyone’s so worried and on edge,” Garza said.
Baylor President Dr. Linda Livingstone sent out a Presidential Perspective email Thursday which included a note about safety measures available for students.
This email was sent out the same day that many students learned of the program’s removal. However, the message did not include any information about the decision to stop offering escorts.
BUPD has ended their escort services due to a high volume of requests that caused longer wait times in their call system.
“What we were seeing with the escort program was we anticipated maybe five, 10, 15, 20 [nightly] calls. Early on, that was the case. But because of the popularity of it, it went from 15, 20, 25 to 80, 90, 100 calls a night,” Childers said. “The demand was so high— it was overwhelming our security officers.”
BUPD Chief Brad Wigtil agreed with Childers’ statement regarding an increase in transportation requests.
“It also could easily get to the point where you get a busy signal when you call the police,” Wigtil said. “The program wasn’t sustainable as it was.”
However, Wigtil said that this backlog didn’t affect 911 calls, and that students were still able to get help in emergency situations.
Childers said a reason for the increase in the number of calls was students using the escort as a “taxi service.”
Galveston freshman Rebekah Saunders said she could see herself using the escort service if it were still available, but she also said she agreed with BUPD’s reason for eliminating it.
“It could overwhelm the police force if they have 70 people calling a night; it may not be a priority to them, which I completely understand,” Saunders said.
Even though the escort system is no longer available, other safety services are offered to students.
BU Campus Guardian is an app that allows users to set timers for when they expect to arrive at their destinations. If the user hasn’t reached their destination by the expected time, a call will go out to everyone who they’ve put on their contact list. This list can include BUPD as a contact.
Another option is the call boxes located around campus. If a student experiences a dangerous situation in the vicinity of a call box, they can simply call 911 from the box.
Waco transit offers an after-hours shuttle service that runs from 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., and its stops include Jones Library, University Parks apartments, intramural fields, Bagby Ave., Allen Hall and Brooks Hall.
Frisco senior Katherine Kiesling said she takes this shuttle every night.
“The full loop around campus takes about 30+ minutes, so if the library closes, or you can’t get into the library…you’re waiting out there alone upwards of 30 minutes sometimes,” Kiesling said.
Kiesling never used the police escort system because she found the transit to be a more a comfortable option.
“It was kind of intimidating to think about— calling the cops and asking for a ride, cause I felt like they had much better things to be doing,” Kiesling said.
Kiesling said she thinks that it’s important for students to be aware that the shuttle system is an option so they know they have a choice other than walking, especially late at night.
Ploiesti, Romania sophomore Andreea Loghin has used the shuttle, the escort service and the Campus Guardian app, and she said her preferred option was the escort.
“We got in [the shuttle], and it was really weird cause he would stop at certain spots and he wouldn’t come in front of the buildings, so we would have to still walk outside in the dark. It was not as efficient as the other service was,” Loghin said. “I do use the Guardian app, but I don’t feel as safe as I felt when I was riding with a security officer.”
More information about campus safety services can be found on Baylor’s website.