SafeRide is coming to the West End, DuPont Circle and the Lincoln Memorial. After advocacy from the Student Association, the program that offers rides for students to get across campus if they feel unsafe or unable to get home is expanding to three off-campus locations. The SA has been working with administrators for months on this expansion, and their efforts now mean that more students will have the option to call a ride if they find themselves feeling unsafe as they travel home. The policy exemplifies how the SA and administrators can collaborate on issues that impact students despite tensions between students and officials.
Students complained that SafeRide, previously known as 4-RIDE, had several issues that had little to do with the distance the service covered. Some had complained of unwelcoming drivers and long wait times, and one student had even reported unwanted romantic advances from a driver. In the reincarnation of 4-RIDE as SafeRide in 2019, the University updated the GW Rider app so that students could track each SafeRide vehicle. Previously, the app only showed the schedules of the Vern Express and Virginia Science and Technology Campus shuttles.
The new policy is a heartening step in the right direction. With the expansion of SafeRide into off-campus neighborhoods, students can feel safe knowing they have a reliable resource to get out of unsafe situations. Between social events, late-night Gelman Library study sessions or fitting errands into a busy college schedule, there are plenty of reasons why someone could find themself needing to get home late but feeling unsafe. If any of these everyday activities involves walking in dimly lit areas or being followed, then students who live both near and far from campus should have the option of a SafeRide.
GW’s campus and Foggy Bottom tend to be fairly safe places, but in the year 2019 there were still more than 1,000 crimes reported to GW Police Department, with nearly 50 of those reports being for stalking or sexual assault. Even still, the number of crimes does not account for people, especially women, feeling unsafe or threatened. This could be an even bigger consideration for people who live further from campus, including in the many apartment buildings in the West End or DuPont Circle. The long walk back home means more time in a less controlled and less familiar environment. Even if the overall risk of someone’s safety being violated is relatively low, it is still not zero, and people do not deserve to have to feel threatened making their way to or from campus.
But people will only use SafeRide if they know about it, and if its use is normalized as a legitimate and common option for staying safe. This is especially important given the tepid attitudes that students seem to have had about SafeRide and its predecessor 4-RIDE program. The University and the SA should widely publicize this change and highlight its benefits to ensure students know to take advantage of its benefits.
But students also have a responsibility to only use the service when necessary. Not wanting to walk home alone, feeling unsafe or being too intoxicated to make it home safely are examples of reasons to take SafeRide. But people should not be hailing a SafeRide car just because they don’t feel like walking halfway across campus for no other reason. If people frivolously use the expanded SafeRide for convenience rather than out of necessity, it will cause people who are hailing one of the cars for a legitimate safety reason to wait longer to get picked up, almost defeating the purpose of SafeRide. Officials have noted that SafeRide is currently understaffed due to a national driver shortage – GW should consider what options they have to bring on more drivers to ensure the service works in a timely way, so the onus is not just on students to keep wait times down.
The SA and administrators have been collaborating on the SafeRide expansion since the summer. Both the SA and the GW officials they worked with deserve credit – in a productive, non-antagonistic fashion, they worked together to deliver for the student body. SA Vice President Kate Carpenter deserves special praise here – she spearheaded the effort, and in helping to make this happen, is fulfilling a campaign pledge of hers to actualize small changes that make a substantial difference.
The relationship between the student body and administrators is generally a frosty, standoffish one. Most of the antipathy students hold toward officials broadly is well-founded, with many members of the community feeling like the issues they care about have not been addressed. Being able to make constructive criticism of the University, like the SA often does, while simultaneously working closely with individual administrators on specific issues seems like an incredibly productive and responsible approach to student advocacy that the SA is uniquely suited to undertake.
When endorsing SA candidates, including Carpenter, the Editorial Board noted the importance of delivering on campaign promises and working meaningfully with the University. In this case, Carpenter and the SA have done great work in that area. As a result of their constructive engagement with administrators, more students will have a way to get back to their residence halls or apartments safely if they are ever in a situation where they feel unsafe or in need of assistance. Not only is this a positive outcome for students, but it shows how the SA can and should continue to deliver for the GW community through productive dialogue with officials.
The editorial board consists of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s staff editorial was written by opinions editor Andrew Sugrue and contributing opinions editor Shreeya Aranake, based on discussions with culture editor Anna Boone, contributing sports editor Nuria Diaz, design editor Grace Miller, copy editor Jaden DiMauro and assistant copy editor Karina Ochoa Berkley.