Out of the 22 universities within Ontario, only the University of Waterloo, université de Hearst, and the Royal Military College do not provide a Walksafe service for its students. The University of Waterloo is one of the largest in Ontario with a population consisting of more than 30,000 students. Other universities, such as Nipissing and Laurentian, have less than half of UW’s population and are able to provide students with this service.</p>
The Walksafe service aims to provide additional safety to students by providing an escort when they walk at night on or off-campus. The structure of the service and the way it is funded varies between the 19 universities that operate it. Trent University’s service is organized through student volunteers and operates every day of the week, while Lakehead University’s Walksafe service is offered through its Campus Security and available at any time, any day, for the entire year.
Even Wilfrid Laurier University, which has a population of 17,000 students, has a Foot Patrol service that is offered through its student union. The Foot Patrol service is available to both the main and Brantford campuses and is also available every evening of the week.
Meanwhile, the University of Waterloo, which is significantly larger than Laurier, has yet to have a consistent and long-term program that offers this kind of safety to their students on both the main and Stratford campuses. The university currently has its ongoing Shuttle Service that aims to provide any additional safety to students who need to leave campus at night. The service is provided for students on and off campus and runs from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day of the week.
However, the Shuttle Service is not adequate in providing additional safety to many students. The off-campus shuttles can transport 18 students per shuttle run while the on-campus shuttle can only transport 14. The maximum amount of students the shuttle service can serve per week is 1,344, which is less than four per cent of the university’s current student population.
UW had a Walksafe program but it was discontinued in 2010 due to large operating costs. Since then, many studies and surveys were conducted by previous Feds committees in pursuit of finding the best way to provide this kind of safety and other forms of safety for students.
Maaz Yasin, the re-elected Feds Vice-President Internal (VPIN) is determined to solve this ongoing issue amongst other issues regarding campus safety. As promised, he recently created the Campus Safety Task Force which will focus on solving these problems.
With regards to bringing back the Walksafe program, Yasin said that they would need to analyze the many surveys and studies that were conducted in previous years to figure out exactly what type of program would be most beneficial to students.
“With all of the data right now, we can’t say what kind of program we’d need to implement, whether it’s strictly a Walksafe service or if it’s more of an advocacy-based working group that does Walksafe and also advocates to the university on safety issues on a regular basis.”
Yasin also said that he would be interested in integrating Waterloo’s Walksafe program with Laurier’s Foot Patrol in terms of being efficient, should they implement the service.
The purpose of the Campus Safety Task Force is to also improve other areas of campus safety, such as women’s safety on campus, the conditions of roads and sidewalks for pedestrians, and other overarching concerns that students have.
Yasin also emphasized how he wants the task force to make accurate decisions for the students in a timely manner. “I want to keep this very task-driven and figure it out by April so that we can implement whatever needs to be implemented in the upcoming year.”
Yasin also believes that the creation of a formal committee will help Feds look into the options surrouding a Walksafe program, and work toward creating an easier and more efficient service.