Student-led initiatives encouraging walking with others at night gained more interest last week following a homicide on campus.
SURE Walk, a Student Government agency, provides two student volunteers to walk students home from Monday through Thursday between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Taral Patel, Student Government chief of staff, said the program typically serves 10–20 students per night, but it experienced an increase in requests of at least 400 percent following the initial report of a body found in Waller Creek.
“Demand for SURE Walk has been pretty constant up until the tragedy that happened on campus,” said Patel, a government senior. “This is also a tough time in our campus’s history, but [volunteers] answered the call to action and we were able to meet demand. We made sure that everybody who requested a SURE Walk got one.”
All UT students can utilize this service by either calling 512-232-9255 or by approaching volunteers wearing vests and sitting at the tables with SURE Walk banners, located in several campus buildings. Volunteers are usually only available at the Perry-Castañeda Library and the Student Activity Center, but the program began operating in the Flawn Academic Center and Winship Drama Building last week.
Patel said SURE Walk is also considering expanding its hours from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. and serving on weekends, especially on Sunday nights when students are studying on campus before the school week starts.
A partnership with the UT Police Department will allow the organization to collaborate on new ideas for the program and receive funding for more supplies, such as vests and flashlights. UTPD is also considering paid positions for volunteers. Patel said the program currently has approximately 100 volunteers that are typically involved in service organizations, but about 150 more are expected to be trained within the next week.
Mariana Marinho, psychology and women’s and gender studies sophomore, created “Walk Together UT,” another group focused on ensuring safety while walking home. According to the Facebook page for the group, Marinho encourages girls that attend UT to join the closed group and find others walking in the same direction as them by posting on the page.
Some girls in the group also offer rides to fellow members.
“I think that most women have felt unsafe or vulnerable at one point when walking alone, especially at night, and now it’s more clear that it can happen on campus, too,” Marinho said. “Since that’s a feeling women share, I thought it would be good to create something to make us feel like we’re not alone.”
Advertising junior Carolina Treviño said she joined “Walk Together UT” to be part of a support system with other girls who do not feel comfortable traveling by themselves at night.
“I think the best thing we can do is provide ample resources for students to get home,” Trevino said. “The last thing we want to do is let the hype currently surrounding these services die down over time. We need to keep this momentum going so no UT student walks alone at night if they feel unsafe.”
UTPD will also give rides to students on campus between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. Students can use this service by contacting the department at 512-471-4441 and hitting 9 to place the request.
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