The Collegian
Friday, August 12, 2022

Student governments sponsor walking buddy system

<p><em>Logo courtesy of Lauren Oligino.</em></p>

Logo courtesy of Lauren Oligino.

Editor's note: Lauren Oligino is a Collegian writer. 

Confidential sexual assault resources for UR students include CARE Advocates, which can be reached at advocate@richmond.edu or 804.801.6251; Peer Sexual Misconduct Advisors (PSMA), at psma@richmond.edu or 804.346.7674; CAPS, at CAPS@richmond.edu or 804.289.8119; Virginia LGBTQ Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline (24/7), at 866.356.6998; Greater Richmond Regional Hotline (24/7), at 804.612.6126; National Sexual Assault Hotline (24/7) at 800.656.HOPE. 

Spider Safe Walks, an app and program sponsored by the Westhampton College Government Association and Richmond College Student Government Association, will launch at the University of Richmond on Jan. 10. 

The app, which is available for free download from the App Store, offers several services to students, including providing a person to walk with you, staying on the phone while you walk to your destination and watching your location on the app. Walking buddies are UR students who volunteer their time to ensure others get from one location on campus to another safely. 

The initiative, spearheaded by sophomore Lauren Oligino, aims to help students feel safer when they walk through campus at night, Anthony Lawrence, senior and RCSGA president, said. 

“For everyone to be able to walk to campus at night or walk any time of the day and be able to feel secure and safe on campus is imperative to being at a university and being a student, and for everyone's psychological safety as well,” Lawrence said. 

One of the student concerns mentioned during a weekly WCGA meeting pertained to the safety on campus, particularly following the Oct. 25 arrest of a sophomore student, said Penny Hu, junior and WCGA president. WCGA members felt that it was important to address this safety concern and discussed the idea of having students walk together, she said. 

“This semester has been very rough for everybody on this campus,” Hu said, “and we hope that through these small projects that student government can do, [we] can make students feel more comfortable and safe on this campus.” 

Spider Safe Walks allows a student to request a walking buddy who will arrive within 10-15 minutes to any location on campus, Hu said. Students can schedule a walking buddy in advance, as well as access a OneTouch service to request a buddy immediately or within the hour, she said. The program will also pair two walking buddies together to ensure that those walking the student home feel safe, Hu said.  

Walking buddy applicants will receive training from the UR Police Department to ensure that they are prepared for every situation possible, Hu said. The training will be approximately one hour in length, followed by a Q&A session, Lt. Randall Baran wrote in a Dec. 7 email to The Collegian.

“The main focus will be on personal safety,” Baran wrote. “Some examples that are included are suspicious things to look for, a small portion of basic personal defensive moves and resources to contact in an emergency to name a few.” 

After applicants receive training, the app will go live for students to use. The program will operate from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, according to the Spider Safe Walks app. 

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Students interested in becoming walking buddies are encouraged to apply and contact spidersafewalks@gmail.com with any questions about the program, Lawrence and Hu said. 

“Most of the emphasis behind it was to make sure that people didn't feel unsafe walking home at night and they didn't have to suffer that,” Lawrence said, “and they had options in terms of how to get home safely and who can be there for them in that time of need as well.” 

Contact managing co-editor Ryan Hudgins at ryan.hudgins@richmond.edu.

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