The Daily Gamecock

Freshman Council develops safety initiative

Walk Home Cocky to provide nighttime student volunteer escorts

The recent string of violent crimes on and near campus has safety at the forefront of many minds — including members of Freshman Council.

A council initiative called “Walk Home Cocky” plans to have a nighttime walking escort service operating by the end of March or early April.

Trained student volunteers will be stationed at the Thomas Cooper Library to walk with students late at night to their residence halls or parking garages. At least one male and one female volunteer wearing brightly colored shirts and carrying walkie-talkies will escort each student or group of students.

As plans are at this point, the service will operate from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays, but council members say those hours may change depending on student demand.

Freshman Council member Jourdan Simpson said the idea of Walk Home Cocky is to be a “buddy system.”

“I walk around campus really late a lot, and we see a lot of people walking home alone. And of course it’s obviously not safe, so we wanted to do something about it to directly help solve the problem,” Simpson said.

Council members said they will meet with USC’s Division of Law Enforcement and Safety later this week to discuss training and background checks for volunteers.

The goal of Walk Home Cocky, council members said, is not to replace already existing services like the Evening Shuttle, Late Night Shuttle and law enforcement escorts, but to be a supplement for students who do not want to wait or only need to travel a short distance on campus.

“The best mode of transportation is in a car, in a cab, in something where you’re not just exposed,” said student senate Safety and Transportation Committee Chairman and vice president–elect Ryan Bailey. “But a lot of students we found have not been utilizing the services that are already available. Carolina Cab has actually been very well used, but that’s only from Five Points.”

Freshman Council began developing the idea before Christmas and had hoped to have the service running by midterms, according to Bailey. Council members said the start date had to be pushed back as they continue to sort out details of the project, such as training for volunteers and approval from administration.

Bailey, who has worked with Freshman Council members to develop the project and make connections with law enforcement and Library Services, said they have looked at other schools like the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the University of Texas that have similar programs to model Walk Home Cocky after.

Council members conducted late-night surveys at the library to gauge student support for the project and attitudes about safety on campus. About 70 percent of students surveyed said they would be interested in using the service, including about 85 percent of women and about 50 percent of men, according to council member Eric Anderson.

Bailey said the plan for Walk Home Cocky has been presented to various student organizations, including fraternities and sororities, who all expressed support of the project and interest in volunteering.

“It’s helping build community at Carolina, to be able to volunteer with your peers to walk someone else home,” Simpson said. “I think it’s going to be great just to see different people from multiple facets around campus come together and do something awesome.”

Bailey said he expects about 12 to 15 volunteers per night, and they already have a pool of volunteers to call on from student organizations. He also expects Student Government members to be involved in the service.

Council members said they expect to spend around $2,700 to start up the service, which they said they will seek from SG and the Residence Hall Association. Funds will go toward T-shirts and walkie-talkies for the volunteers and promotional materials, and the only cost of running the program will be to maintain those materials each year.

Though the service will initially be offered only from the library to other points on campus, council members said they hope to expand Walk Home Cocky bases in the future to other places like the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center.

“We’ve really progressed a lot since the idea first originated. We just want something that’s feasible for now so that if we are so fortunate as to expand this program, we have a lot of ideas,” said Freshman Council member Missy Torgerson. “You can never guarantee someone’s safety. It’s an impossible thing to do. We just want to make this campus a little bit safer.”