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Last week, the student-directed SafetyWalk program changed its hours of operation from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. We feel that the basis for this decision was misconceived and that the result is detrimental, because it leaves dangerous gaps in the safety escort services at the University. The SafetyWalk program is a critical resource for student safety, providing undergraduates with multiple escorts when they do not feel comfortable walking alone at night. Of late, the program has been suffering from a lack of visibility, and the SafetyWalk leadership believes that this change in hours will increase student use and visibility.
While the intent to increase student use of the program is admirable, changing the hours of operation is the wrong way to accomplish the goal.
The need for SafetyWalk is particularly acute in the earlier hours of the morning, when safety on the streets is the least certain. The Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) has stated that its officers are not available to escort students at all times and at all places, because they may be called to attend to other situations. As a result, SafetyWalk fills a crucial role in providing safety service during the 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. period, when HUPD may be unable to handle the number of escort requests.
Instead of discontinuing the service during the times when they are most needed, SafetyWalk should promote the service more, to ensure greater visibility and use by the student body. The program is not well advertised, and small efforts in the area of public relations would go a long way to raise community awareness of the important service it provides.
Another important area of concern about the program is the undergradaute perception of the service. Some students feel uncomfortable or embarrassed when asking someone to accompany them at night. SafetyWalk should be working to promote their service, through student orientation meetings and postering on campus, thus assuaging students of this unfounded concern.
Student safety on and around campus should be a top priority, and undergraduates should never compromise safety for fear of seeming weak or experiencing embarrassment. Taking measures to increase safety awareness and advertising the program more effectively would certainly be preferable to compromising the programs effectiveness by changing its hours.
We encourage students to take advantage of SafetyWalk, and we hope that the leaders of SafetyWalk will rethink their decision to modify their hours of operation.
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