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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    SafeRide celebrates 25 years of free service

    SafeRide, a free service that transports students around campus, will celebrate its 25-year anniversary today as organizers continue to attribute the program’s success to students’ value and concern for safety.

    While no official ceremony will take place to commemorate the anniversary, Monday’s “”Happy Hour”” safety fair on the UA Mall, featuring various safety-awareness booths, conveyed the same message Safe-Ride uses to encourage the nearly 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students on campus, said Joshua Wright, the program’s director.

    The Associated Students of the University of Arizona SafeRide program is often a relief for parents, who want to ensure their children stay safe on a campus that doesn’t provide ample nighttime lighting, and students rely on the service primarily because of its accessibility, Wright said.

    Wright said SafeRide, a service “”by students for students,”” serves close to 400 students per night and gave rides to an estimated 25,000 students last semester.

    “”This shows that certain programs have a lot of value to the campus community,”” said Wright, who joked he might bake a cake for his staff to celebrate. “”There is a high priority for safe and reliable transportation.””

    History of the program

    SafeRide was founded by former ASUA Sen. Judy Wegener (formerly Judy Simbari) during the 1980-1981 school year as the ASUA Safety After Dark program. It typically served between 10 and 15 students per night throughout the semester.

    Wegener said she proposed the idea of creating a free, nighttime service in which students who felt unsafe walking across the “”poorly lit”” campus could request volunteer walking escorts from various fraternities and ROTC units until they reached their destinations.

    “”It was one of my platforms (when I ran for office) and I decided to follow through with it,”” said Wegener, who received help on the project from the Dean of Students Office and the University of Arizona Police Department.

    Only five volunteers were part of the original ASUA Escort Service that officially opened on March 9, 1981, and had a budget of a little more than $1,000 and a temporary office set up on the first floor of the Old Main building, Wegener said.

    Wegener said the service came as a response to a number of crimes around the campus area, including the murders of two UA students in the months preceding the establishment of the program.

    “”It provided a good safety net for everyone, and it makes me feel proud that such a service evolved – it’s like seeing your baby grow,”” said Wegener, 46, a mother of two who is retired and living in Scottsdale.

    Wright said the Safety After Dark program was also based on a university-operated shuttle service that failed during the late 1970s after only a few weeks of operation because the program wasn’t used enough by students.

    By 1985, Wright said the service had evolved from a walking escort service to a vehicle-based service with the purchase of a golf cart, and the operations eventually moved to its new headquarters in the ASUA offices inside the Student Union Memorial Center.

    One year later, the service received the donation of its first car and the wheels were in motion to get students to their destinations of choice with a quicker response, Wright said.

    By the end of the decade, however, the service hit a standstill from a lack of volunteers. It wasn’t until the early 1990s, Wright said, that the service began to regroup with the donation of another vehicle under the directorship of Carl Dasse.

    Dasse, who served as a director from 1990 to 1991, said the impact of the ASUA Escort Service was seen across campus, despite the organization only having two cars and a total operating budget of $7,000.

    Active in volunteer programs during high school, Dasse said he got involved in the ASUA Escort Service after seeing a flier asking for volunteers during his freshman year.

    “”It was great to be involved back then and expand the program further to make it more reliable and have the impact felt more on campus,”” said Dasse, now 36 and living in Florida.

    Dasse said involvement in the ASUA Escort Service served a two-fold service element, which included adding a community feeling to the university and preventing students from being attacked late at night.

    Issues of domestic violence, including rape, were seen as a problem affecting the UA campus during the early 1990s, and having safe and reliable transportation at night to curtail such activity was important for students, Dasse said.

    “”We provided reliable transportation and were there to try our best to prevent that type of violence,”” Dasse said, adding he had five to six employees at the time.

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