Forum: SURE Walk: Taking steps forward

SURE Walk is one of the oldest agencies of Student Government. In fact, it was created even before SG was abolished in the ’80s and came back because of the vital service it provides. In a world where the mainstream media and government leaders are finally picking up the issue of campus sexual violence, former Student Body President Paul Begala (former adviser to President Bill Clinton, CNN commentator and adviser to a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC) started the Students United for Rape Elimination Walk (SURE Walk) service to bring attention to a heavily ignored but vitally important safety issue that still exists on campuses throughout the U.S. and to provide a tangible service.

This proactive and preventive thinking by Begala is exactly the kind of thought process we want to employ to make this a great program. With that said, the agency has served many students over the years and still has potential, especially when we as a society are coming together to tackle the issue of sexual assault on campuses. Our goal now is to revamp the agency by addressing its flaws and bringing it into the modern era.

We are now working hard to transform and modernize SURE Walk so that it can reach a larger audience, gather data and be an overall better service. The key is technology. We are taking SURE Walk to the next level by introducing mobile technology. Currently, we are exploring various options, such as partnering with the Companion Mobile App, which is a state-of-the-art mobile application that allows us to virtually walk with someone to ensure safety, spot their location and call responders in dangerous situations for them. Incorporating this app into our SURE Walk model will increase efficiency, widen our audience and attract more students (especially those who already use transportation apps such as Uber and Lyft). Having an agency to help with student safety is incredibly important, and by shifting toward a technology-based platform, we hope to reach even more students than before. There are many additional benefits of using the app as opposed to only student volunteer walkers. More people can be walked at one time since only one volunteer is necessary per walk on the application, and the volunteer can remain on the line until the individual feels perfectly safe, whether that means the student is at the apartment unit door or inside. Being able to have UTPD as a mediator safeguards quick response time.

“I believe in progressive change,” Begala said. “That means I want a movement, not a monument. The SURE model we created predated cellphones and social media. It worked great in the ’80s, but that’s no reason to remain stuck in the past. Longhorns are smart and adaptive and forward-thinking. I am proud y’all are updating and upgrading SURE while retaining the goal of completely eliminating all forms of sexual assault from our campus community.”

We are working tirelessly to choose the most optimal path for the agency, but one thing is clear — that technology adaptation is imperative. We are moving forward in gathering information, meeting campus partners and increasing discussion on how to bring the agency into the 21st century so that it can serve students in the most effective and efficient manner. Let’s make campus a more comfortable, welcoming and safer place for all.

Taral Patel is a neurobiology and government senior from Katy. He is the Student Government chief of staff. Krishan Sachdev is a philosophy sophomore from Laredo. He is the SURE Walk director-designate.