Students urged to trust their intuition of fear

With finals on the horizon, Mount Royal University (MRU), is prepared with a program to help students studying late into the night stay safe.

The SafeWalk program at MRU is available to students at all hours of the day. It’s a service where students who feel unsafe can request a pair of student volunteers or a security guard to walk them to their destination.

Peter Davison, head of security at MRU, asks that students always play it safe and request a SafeWalk,

“The intuition of fear is a great thing. If you’re feeling like you just aren’t that safe, please use it.”

However, of the 11 students surveyed on Mount Royal University’s Main Street, on March 3, about SafeWalk, three didn’t know the program existed.

Mount Royal’s campus is comparatively safer than larger campuses in Al-berta, such as the University of Alberta. If you compare crime maps of the two schools, the U of A crime map says 40 incidents were reported on that campus, while the Calgary Police Service crime map shows none on MRU’s campus.

While Mount Royal University doesn’t have as high of an on-campus inci-dent rate as other Alberta universities, security personnel are still con-cerned that students aren’t using the program when they should be.Security guards patrol campus day and night and are able to provide students with a Safewalk.
Photo by Tara Rathgeber

The MRU security department and SAMru’s Student Outreach and Safe-Walk branch urge students to take advantage of the program if they have a gut feeling that something may be wrong.

Davison also encourages students who have any sort of domestic situa-tions occurring in their private lives, or victims of stalking, to utilize the serv-ice the second they feel in danger.

Safety tips recommended by Davison for students staying late to study in-clude utilizing the buddy system, always knowing where the closest red emergency phone is, and being aware of your surroundings.

A SafeWalk can be requested through the red emergency phones on cam-pus, pay phones (free of charge), stopping by the security desk, or by call-ing security’s front desk.

There is, however, an overall decline in the use of the SafeWalk program by students, and Davison finds that the issue has a gender aspect to it.

“I’ve recommended the service to quite a few males, and they get kind of uncomfortable with the concept of being walked to their destination,” Davi-son says.

The Security Services office can be found right inside the West Gate entrance.
Photo by Tara Rathgeber
Males and female are encouraged to utilize the service, as both males and females can be victims of assaults and dangerous incidents.

While approaching a security guard in uniform can be daunting to students not wanting to feel silly, there are student volunteers on campus from ap-proximately six p.m. to nine p.m. that can also give other students Safe-Walk’s to their destination.

Jon Heath-Smith, student outreach and SafeWalk coordinator, understands that “some students have felt it’s easier to approach a student than a secu-rity guard,” but he also insists students request a SafeWalk whenever they feel like they may be in danger, through either outlet of the service.

Student volunteers for the SafeWalk program can be identified in neon or-ange or yellow vests, and they always travel in pairs. The vests have the SafeWalk SOS logo on them, and all volunteers are equipped with a two-way radio that goes directly to the security desk.

Students can volunteer to help with SafeWalk by filling out a volunteer form at SAMru. Heath-Smith says they are always looking for more volunteers. All volunteers entering the SafeWalk program are screened by the Calgary Police Service, and are reimbursed the $15 for the background check once they are accepted into the program.

Training sessions are given to all volunteers by Mount Royal University se-curity to keep both volunteers and students safe.

Davison and Mount Royal University’s security team are looking to utilize a new app in the near future to bridge the disconnect between their depart-ment and students on campus.

The goal for this new app is to enhance communication, and will most likely reflect the “Working Alone” app, where students log in when they are work-ing on campus after-hours, so security knows how many students are on campus in the event of an emergency.

“If something were to happen, we’d know who’s here are who’s left. That way we won’t spend a lot of time searching for people who have already left.” Davison said.

trathgeber@cjournal.ca