Editor’s note: This story discusses themes including sexual violence.
With two rapes reported on Cal Poly’s campus within one week of one another, the recent break-in incident in which an unauthorized man entered a dorm building and racial hate crimes continuing to persist, a wave of fear and unease has washed over the student body.
In response, Cal Poly introduced a number of safety programs — however, they have been met with mixed emotions.
One program, Mustang Patrol, features a student escort walking service offered for on-campus destinations.
According to Cal Poly Police Chief George Hughes, the program started with the opening of the yakʔitʸutʸu dorms in 2018 and was restricted to weekends until this academic year.
“We wanted to increase security presence on campus at that time and have more eyes and ears out, and then over the years that has expanded,” Hughes said.
Due to recent events, the team decided to expand the program to be more than a walking patrol and to include a safety element to make students on campus feel more at ease.
To use the service, students can call the dispatch phone line at (805) 756-2281 to either schedule or request another student to accompany them on their walk to another on-campus location.
Although finding students to hire has been difficult, Hughes said they plan to expand the program.
“Once we expand to seven days a week and longer hours, I want to expand by making it more robust each evening,” Hughes said. “Instead of having two individuals out, it’d be nice to have four to six individuals out especially on the days that we identify are a little bit busier … and can provide the service quicker.”
The service also monitors campus, seeing if doors were left unlocked or propped open— particularly at residence calls—confronting suspicious individuals and serving as a “visual extra security presence on campus” due to the screened student workers’ identifying vests, Hughes said.
Business senior Maggie Freedman said Mustang Patrol is a good resource if it extends off campus and in conjunction with a car service.
Freedman said she attended a Kristen Smart walk, in which attendees walked the route from the house where Smart attended a party, to her dorm building the night she disappeared in 1996.
“You wouldn’t think to call a car just to walk that short [route], but having the walking program would be something that’s good for that,” Freedman said.
Freedman said she often feels more unsafe at night walking around campus. She said the absence of lighting, particularly on the outskirts of campus, have made her feel even more uneasy.
But the program is not void of criticism.
Business senior Grace Battles said she is frustrated with the limits of the service.
“It’s helpful but it’s not nearly enough,” Battles said. “It’s one tiny step.”
Battles said she would like clearer indication of these services, since many are unaware they even exist.
“[An idea could be] having a tab on the portal or in the app, that just says ‘Safety’ on it, that has really easy clear numbers to call in different situations, and during WOW having the freshmen save all the numbers on their phones,” Battles said.
She also suggested creating a hotline for students to call while they are walking alone, in times they do not want to use these other services.
Business administration junior Diana Suarez also said she felt frustrated with a lack of different resources.
One late night at the library, a conversation between a security guard and Suarez sparked the idea for her escort van petition.
The pair shared a mutual frustration about the lack of an escort van service, especially given the recent events on campus. The guard told Suarez that many students had been asking for its reimplementation since it was suspended at the start of the pandemic, Suarez said.
As a freshman, Suarez often used the escort van for its ease of use, efficiency and speed, but now the situation is even more dire, she said.
“If I was a freshman and had to walk back from the library, all the way across campus to [the Yosemite dorms] at midnight, I would be absolutely terrified,” Suarez said. “You don’t always have friends to walk with; it can be kind of weird to request [somone] to walk with you.”
Suarez said the vans did more than just return students home safely.
“[The service] is also really helpful for people who normally use the Disability Resource Center (DRC) service during the day,” Suarez said. “People on crutches, in wheelchairs, with disabilities that use the DRC service to get to their classes throughout the day—they don’t have anything at night.”
Suarez created a petition in mid-October, advocating the return of escort vans. Over just a few days, the petition gained hundreds of signatures, spanning all grades and colleges.
As of Nov. 8, Cal Poly launched a pilot program of a shuttle service, Mustang Shuttle.
According to Cal Poly Transportation and Parking Services, the shuttle runs everyday, making a loop around campus every 10 minutes with seven stops. The shuttle runs from 7 p.m. to 11:40 p.m.
“[Escort vans] was a program we did individually. It was very limited,” Hughes said. “[Mustang Shuttle] is more robust. It is done by a third party vendor. It’s a different route with more stops. Better vans, more accessible.”