Escort Service back up to speed

Dan Murtaugh

The Student Escort Service, which was sputtering on fumes last quarter with only nine student drivers, has revved up its recruitment efforts and is running almost on a full tank.

The Office of Undergraduate Residential Life raised student-driver wages from $6.50 to $7.50 an hour. Administrators also worked with student groups such as the Associated Student Government and Interfraternity Council to increase the work force to 26 student drivers, who operate either two or three cars every night.

Gregg Kindle, director of Residential Life, said the improvements in the escort service increase students’ safety on campus.

“If we’re running at full capacity, we can respond much quicker to student calls,” he said. “The position (of the escort service driver) is one of civic responsibility and community service.”

Kindle said the service is at its best with seven students working every night: one dispatcher stationed in Allison Hall and six drivers spread among three cars. He said the optimum number of employees is 30 drivers.

In contrast, the escort service had nine employees last quarter and was running one car a night. There weren’t enough employees to keep one in Allison as a dispatcher, so whichever driver was sitting shotgun would double as dispatcher.

ASG Student Services Vice President Laura Ellis, who is on the campus safety and crime prevention committee, said having to wait for escort service cars could be dangerous for students.

“You don’t want somebody to be like, ‘never mind,’ because of a wait,” said Ellis, a Weinberg junior. “You don’t want people walking home alone, especially young women.”

Weinberg senior Brook Crowley said she used the escort service a lot last year to travel from her apartment on Noyes Street to her friends’ apartment on Davis Street. She said she rode with the escorts once this fall, and was so annoyed with the wait that she hasn’t used it since.

“It’s pretty complicated,” she said. “You have to call about an hour in advance and plan your departure time for then.”

She said a decline in the waiting time would restore her interest in using the service.

“It would really be nice to know that I could call and leave in half an hour instead of having to stand in front of Norris for an hour and a half,” she said.

Students working for the escort service declined to comment without first speaking to their supervisors.

Kindle said Residential Life began asking student groups for help in recruiting drivers near the end of Fall Quarter, resulting in a windfall of new drivers.

“We’re reaping the benefits of that (recruiting) now,” he said.

Ellis said she has helped advertise the escort service’s need for drivers by passing out recruitment posters during ASG meetings.

The escort service began walking students home in Winter Quarter 1993, and it started driving students during Spring Quarter 1997. It operates from 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. every night and picks up students as far away as Central Street to the north, Dempster Street to the south and Ridge Avenue to the west.