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Students Discuss Safety Patrol

By Lawrence K. Chang
Staff Reporter

The formation of a student escort and patrol service got under way on Tuesday when the Graduate Student Council and the Undergraduate Association held an organizational meeting. About 20 to 30 people attended the meeting in the GSC Lounge at Walker Memorial.

GSC and UA student leaders presented their vision of the student escort and patrol service to students and administrators, and solicited student interest in forming a committee to oversee the development of the program.

Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin expressed her support for the implementation of the program, and discussed the role of the Campus Police in its relationship with the student-run service.

"If the program did nothing more than to make people feel better... that's extremely important," Glavin said. "People should be able to focus 100 percent on why they are here, their education, and not have to be afraid of going outside."

A brief discussion followed the meeting to raise student concerns and opinions, and the next meeting date was set to begin the drafting of the specific details of the program.

GSC details student escort plan

Jonathan D. Baker G, co-chair of the GSC Housing and Community Affairs Committee, provided a general introduction of the student escort and patrol service.

He said that the service would provide escorts for students to walk safely around campus at night. Baker said many MIT students are wary of walking by themselves at late hours. Others mentioned that the program will be ideal for those who are reluctant to call the Campus Police or friends to walk them home.

Students can obtain escorts by calling a dispatcher who will then contact a patroller in the vicinity of the student. Also, students can directly obtain escorts by merely approaching them.

The student escorts would patrol the interior of the Institute, watching for suspicious activity, according to Baker. With students patrolling inside, the Campus Police can be free to allocate more time to patrol the exterior of the buildings.

Both Baker and Glavin stressed that the student positions would not be ones of law enforcement and confrontation, but ones of observation and deterrence.

The patrollers will be in direct contact with the Campus Police through walkie-talkies, acting only as "eyes and ears." According to Glavin, the visibility of the student patrollers and the sense of security that they would instill in students are significant reasons for implementing the program.

Glavin also said that the community must work with the police, because there is a limit to what the police can do by themselves. She said that people often become desensitized by Campus Police urges for safety measures, and that this organization is especially important because it comes from the students.

She said that the Campus Police could help the student escort/patrol service with guidance, training, communications, uniforms (ones that the students would select), and equipment.

Student escort/patrollers would face very low risks of harm themselves, based upon similar programs on other college campuses, according to Glavin.

Although a similar program has never been attempted here at MIT, the programs are not new, Glavin said. Colleges across the nation, including universities in the area, already have these programs. Glavin speculated that the reason MIT had never established such a program in the past could have been the result of MIT's intense academic pressure. She pointed to last year's crime as stimulus for greater student concern for campus safety.

GSC President Caryl B. Brown G pointed to the Boston College Student Walking Patrol Service as a model. He summarized a report that said the program has marketing value for parents and students, adds to the efficiency of BC's equivalent of MIT's A Safe Ride, and is "a rallying cry to fight back [against crime]." The BC program also provides employment opportunities for students.

The BC program costs less than $50,000 per year. There are 21 students involved, and the program runs from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. The program initially operated on a trial basis, running on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The program's success has allowed it to expand.

On Jan. 28, 1993, the GSC conducted a campus safety poll on 933 students. Results showed that 120 students out of the students surveyed, 13 percent, would volunteer "to monitor the corridors of the academic buildings at night."

Source of funding uncertain

UA President Hans C. Godfrey '93, said that no funding is available at the moment for the student escort and patrol program. He suggested that volunteer groups could work to establish the program. Upon its success, the program could seek funding from the UA and GSC.

Others felt that if the program was successful on a voluntary basis, it would be unable to obtain funding in the future. Students suggested that the funding could come from diverse private sources, and then similarly be turned over to the Institute upon the program's success.

The students that attended the meeting recognized financial restraints as a significant factor for the program's future. But as with every other aspect of the service, the funding possibilities are still open for discussion, for nothing has been set.

Baker was happy with Tuesday's meeting. "I am really pleased with the turnout. People are enthusiastic, and I have really big hopes that we can pull this together," he said.

The specific details of the program will be discussed further at the next meeting, at 6 p.m. Nov. 23 in the GSC Lounge at Walker. Program models from other colleges will be used as general outlines for the policy drafting of MIT's own student escort and patrol service. The meeting is open to all interested parties.