Providing safe transportation for OSU students
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 02:02
Working as the SafeRide dispatcher, Laurel Hickam, a fourth-year student and SafeRide employee, juggled answering the phone, recording student data in a colorful spreadsheet, communicating with the vans to get pick-up wait times and relaying the information back to the students on hold.
“ASOSU SafeRide, please hold. ASOSU SafeRide, please hold. ASOSU SafeRide, please hold,” said Hickam as she received calls.
Before the assaults on campus, the average pick-up wait time was 11.73 minutes. After the assaults, wait times increased drastically. Some estimates were as high as 45 minutes.
“How can we help people when we’re giving them 45 minute wait times?” asked Hickam, a fourth year student majoring in education.
More than just the wait times have increased due to recent events. After the first assault on Jan. 15, SafeRide received a total of 108 calls the following evening. In 2011-12, the average number of calls was 77 per night. This year, the average is 93 calls per night.
This sudden surge of passengers stretched SafeRide’s available resources. Part of the problem, according to SafeRide staff, was a lack of funding.
“I’ve always said, if I win the lottery I would donate to SafeRide,” Hickam said.
Previously, SafeRide had three vans on duty during the early shift, and two vans during the late shift.
“That first night [Jan. 16] we couldn’t handle it,” said Josh Blake, a SafeRide employee. Blake is a senior in agricultural sciences and has been driving for SafeRide since the beginning of fall term.
Since the assaults near and on campus, safety has been on everyone’s mind. From giving away whistles on campus, to holding town hall meetings to further the conversation about sexual violence and awareness, Oregon State students, staff and the Corvallis community are promoting sexual violence awareness.
“Campus should be the safest area for students,” said Farqan Alhejji, an international student from Saudi Arabia majoring in bioengineering. “It seems like Corvallis is not safe at all.”
Alhejji is a frequent user of the student-fee funded program. She usually uses SafeRide after a late midterm or after studying at the Valley Library. Alhejji and her twin sister alert each other about their whereabouts.
“I always update my sister, and she updates me,” Alhejji said. In response to the assaults on campus, she said she “didn’t feel safe at all.”
Alherjji and her sister are not alone. Kerry Testa, a senior in art, is another frequent user of SafeRide.
“I live past a field and down a dark street,” Testa said. “My parents saw where I lived and were like, ‘Please take SafeRide.’”
Testa used SafeRide frequently during fall term because she finished work around 10 p.m. With the recent assaults, she said it is easier for her to “justify” calling for a pick-up.
“I’m really short and tiny,” Testa said. “I have a right to take it too.”
Testa also calls someone while walking home when she doesn’t use SafeRide. Alhejji and Testa are both appreciative of the service SafeRide provides.
“I always want to be really really nice,” Testa said. “By the time I get in, I’m just happy to be in the warm car.”
Over the past weeks, the ASOSU budget for 2013-14 has been in a state of flux. SafeRide requested additional funding to keep the third van in use throughout the entire evening.
“Funding is hard to get,” Blake said.
On Tuesday, the Student and Incidental Fees Committee passed all budgets during its open hearing. The budgets now have to be passed through the joint session of the House and Senate next Wednesday.