Following the presidential election a group of Trinity students and professors have initiated the planning process for a new safe walk program under the pending name Tiger Walk. The program is currently being headed by Dr. Benjamin Stevens in the Classical Studies department.
“Tiger walk will help to pair any one who feels unsafe, or uncomfortable, walking around campus with someone or someone who will gladly walk with them,” Stevens said. “An official organization not yet in place.”
Details have yet to be solidified but the group has a planned structure for the new system. Students will comprise a body of volunteers that offer to walk students from point A to point B within confines of the campus’ grounds.
“What we’re doing right now is collecting a core of volunteers who, for example, will be able to make their presence known at the end of a given class saying that if anyone needs a walk back to a certain dorm or walk across campus, the volunteer is there for that purpose,” Stevens said. “We imagine the core of volunteers helping to staff after hours events on campus whether these are public events or private parties. We’ll have in place social media options and other communication options so that anyone who is interested in having accompaniment at a given moment, or even hopefully sort of developing regular access to someone to walk with them, will be able to arrange that.”
The initiative is in response to the changes noticed since the general election.
“I have received emails from members of the community saying that they have started to feel less secure then they would like to, or not feel as secure as they would like to in their identity and their diversity” Stevens said. “Not for any particular concrete reason, but just in light of general cultural changes given the election. The feeling of fear is very real. So this is a way of trying to address that.”
Anthropology and Communications senior Faith Byrne is one of the student Tiger Walk volunteers that noticed the election results last week.
“On Tuesday night there was a lot of chanting about build the wall and Trump 2016, which made a lot of international students very uncomfortable” Byrne said. “There was also graffiti Wednesday morning on campus. I personally saw on the Trinity tower someone had written Trump in big letters. On the Coates Library sign it said Coates library wants you to make America great again, things like that. These aren’t necessarily sorts of hate speech but what’s associated with that kind of speech is not necessarily the best and doesn’t make people feel very comfortable.”
Student advisors in the initiative pushed for a social media presence in the program.
“The public face for the program, the means by which community members will be able to request walks, we will have a closed Facebook group,” Stevens said. “It’s sort of along the lines of Overheard at Trinity, but also monitored and moderated by me as faculty advisor and by other leadership of the program just to make sure that group stays on focus.”
Student representatives, hesitant to label themselves as walkers, serve the basic function of escorting students around the campus. While TUPD has monitoring systems in place through their E-Alert program, this new initiative offers a different sort of assistance.
“Dr. Stevens wants to start something that can work with TUPD, but this is more on its own,” senior Biology major and Tiger Walk volunteer Julian Burgos said. “TUPD offers the virtual escort thing. This is more of a physical support. I’m a person with you. I feel like it would be nice if you feel unsafe walking around campus.”
The program will vet students through the University’s standard background checks and sensitivity trainings. Planning how volunteers may interact with those seeking walks is a current dialogue in the initiative.
“I think that one of our goals is for walkers and other volunteers to have regular conversations with each other exactly about walking and about the sorts of interaction and engagement they’ll have,” Stevens said.
The group’s Facebook page may be found by searching “#TigerWalk at Trinity University”.