SafeWalk resolves debt and returns to regular hours

safewalk

McKinney Brown, left, and Ariel Eure call the SafeWalk dispatcher on January 19, 2010.

Students leaving libraries tonight will hear this question for the first time this semester.

SafeWalk, which is student-run and University-funded, provides employees to help students get home safely. They are stationed outside Davis Library and the Undergraduate Library and are available by request from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Felicity Welch, SafeWalk’s program director, said the program is important because of the feeling of security it offers to students.

“It’s not necessarily about providing safety on campus, but it’s about providing comfort,” Welch said. “One thing we say is that even if you don’t feel unsafe walking home, we’re someone to talk to.”

The group hasn’t operated for the past three weeks because it’s been in a period of transition: instead of receiving funding from student governmentSafeWalk now receives funding from UNC.

During the 2014-15 school year, SafeWalk dealt with $20,000 of debt.

“It’s resolved now. We’re very comfortable in our funding,” Welch said.

SafeWalk currently employs six people — a low number that has partially contributed to their delay in service.

“It would be very difficult for me and the five other employees to cover all the shifts,” said Daniel Salgado, program manager of SafeWalk. “People would be working more than two or three nights a week to cover all those.”

Salgado said employee turnover is another problem SafeWalk has faced in recent years, but the office is looking to hire around an additional 14 people.

“When we recruit new SafeWalkers, we try to make it clear that these aren’t normal hours for a job,” Salgado said. “Some people realize that being up until three in the morning isn’t sustainable when you have early classes.”

Welch said she looks forward to new opportunities for SafeWalk this year with a more stable source of funding.

“We’re going through a change right now, figuring out how much we’re spending,” Welch said. “With the change we’ve been undergoing, we want to make sure SafeWalk is off on the right foot.”

Sophomore Bryan Labra said he thinks the service SafeWalk offers is important.

“I feel pretty safe here,” Labra said. “Not everyone has the same sense of security. I’m sure some people want that extra sense of security.”

Junior Bri Sikorski agreed with the importance of SafeWalk’s role on campus.

“It can be kind of sketchy walking places at night, especially off-campus,” Sikorski said. “I usually try to avoid going home at night so I don’t feel unsafe.”

Salgado said the number of walks requested has gone up after known acts of violence in the Chapel Hill community, including the death of Professor Feng Liu in July 2014 and the deaths of Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha in February.

“Those (acts of violence) harmed the perspective of safety on campus because people feel jeopardized,” Salgado said. “Following events like that, it’s important for SafeWalk to be here on campus so people can feel safe.”

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