By Bridget Sjoberg | News Editor
Last week, the Lariat reported on Baylor Police Department’s escort system being taken away. I understand the department’s reasoning for wanting to find a new system and for why the current system wasn’t fully effective, but eradicating the program creates a safety issue for students.
All of last year, I absolutely loved the escort system. Working for the Lariat requires me to stay in the newsroom on campus late at night, leaving after midnight several times a week. When this happened, I was able to dial BUPD, state my location and be picked up by an officer to take me to my apartment off campus. Otherwise, I would have had to attempt to find a ride from a friend (which would still require walking in a parking garage after midnight) or walk 15 minutes in the dark back to my apartment.
When I found out that the escort system was taken away, I was initially shocked and upset. This had been my way of transportation and a system that made me feel safe when I needed to return home from campus at night. I know many other people who felt the same way. However, upon hearing the reasoning for why BUPD ended the service, things became a bit more clear and I understand the frustration they feel with the current system.
No matter what the reasoning was, however, there was no need to terminate the system with no announcement. The only way many people found out that escorts were no longer being offered was that the escort web page on Baylor’s website read “error” instead of the usual information. For a system so largely used and depended upon by Baylor students, a news release or announcement should have been made with a list of alternative solutions for students feeling unsafe.
There are legitimate alternative options to using an escort, but none provide the same level of comfort and security as being picked up by a police officer would. At least in my case, taking a shuttle would still require me to walk at least 10 minutes in the dark (five to get to the shuttle stop and five to get from the shuttle dropoff to my apartment). I have heard from multiple sources that they had to wait up to 25 or 30 minutes in the dark for the shuttle to arrive.
Additionally, walking back to a parked car, often on the second or third floor of a parking garage at night, is unsafe. Relying on the BU Campus Guardian app or the light up poles on campus still requires me to walk alone in the dark. These methods also don’t actively prevent threats on campus, but would just possibly assist in the event that something occurred.
The solution to this issue is not to completely take away the escort system, but instead to revise the system to be one that works for both campus police and Baylor students. Instead of a call line, an app could be created where students could submit requests, stating their desired pickup and dropoff location, as well as the reason for their request to avoid students using police as an “Uber” because they don’t feel like walking.
Students deserve to feel safe and shouldn’t feel like they need to walk or wait in the dark to arrive at their destination. At the end of the day, students’ safety matters more than the inconvenience of picking up students for a three- to five-minute car ride.