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SafeWalk loses student fee funding

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

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

On Sunday, the Student Activities Fund Office ceased providing money for payroll for the group.

The decision was made Sept. 9 by Joshua Aristy, chairman of the Student Congress Finance Committee, and Brittany Best, student body treasurer.

“I love SafeWalk,” Aristy said. “I think they’re great, but they’re over $20,000 in debt. It’s not fiscally responsible to keep giving them money.”

After semesters of budget deficits, SafeWalk now owes student government $20,076.34. Student government funds organizations through student fees. SafeWalk pays all of its employees but does not charge students to be walked back to their dorms.

SafeWalk had requested $19,800 from the Safety and Security Committee to fund operating expenses from the previous year, Aristy said. That money would have helped the group balance its budget.

Ryan Darge, program and finance director for SafeWalk, said the organization’s funding is in jeopardy, but it plans to maintain its service to students.

“If it has to be on a volunteer basis, it will be,” he said. “We may have to suspend for a few days to get our footing underneath us.”

Student Congress will work with SafeWalk to develop a more sustainable model for the group.

“We’ll have to talk over a bunch of numbers and scenarios,” Aristy said.

Student Body President Andrew Powell is committed to the program.

“We are working really hard to make sure that SafeWalk gets the funding it needs,” he said, “We are committed to making sure all students are always able to get home safe, no matter where they are on campus.”

Senior Emily Brawley said she has been using the service since she got to UNC.

“We deserve to feel safe on campus, especially after the events of this summer,” she said, referring to the July killing of professor Feng Liu in an off-campus neighborhood.

Junior Aashni Ruwala said she was a frequent user of SafeWalk, which allowed her to study late into the night.

“I wouldn’t stay out in the library if I didn’t have somebody to walk me home,” she said. “They’re very cheerful at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning — very refreshing after studying chemistry all night.”

SafeWalk is looking for alternate sources of funding. Regardless, Darge has no intention to shut the program down.

“Students rely on us,” he said, “I’m not going to let us being a little bit in the red affect SafeWalk’s future.”

university@dailytarheel.com

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