November 7, 2012

Organizers Hope Walkshare Initiative Will Make Campus Safer

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After the recent string of sexual assaults that shocked the University, a group of Cornell students recently started Big Red Walkshare, an initiative to encourage students to walk home from campus late at night in groups.

For over two weeks, a group of student volunteers has worked to encourage students to walk home together from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily from four different campus locations including Sibley Hall, Mann Library, Olin Library and Duffield Hall. When the volunteers see someone walking home alone, they attempt to find other students who are heading in the same direction.

Katerina Athanasiou ’13, one of the initiative’s leaders who is also a Sun Senior Editor, explained how Big Red Walkshare came about.

“A group of students came up with this idea while discussing the recent sexual assaults on campus. We brainstormed different ways to take action and this seemed like a good way to self organize and make students feel safer,” Athanasiou said. She said the initiative is an effective way to help prevent sexual assaults.

The volunteers sometimes hand out glow sticks to the students who walk in groups. Athanasiou said that the purpose behind the glow sticks sticks was to demonstrate “visual unity” and remind people of the Blue Light Escort Service and other University resources.

Athanasiou said it was hard to measure the initiative’s success because there are so many volunteers and participants. Additionally, students are not always favorable towards the volunteers’ suggestions to form groups to walk home, she said.

“Some people are more receptive to the volunteers who approach them while others decide to go home alone,” Athanasiou said.

While the initiative was supposed to last for two weeks because of the need for so many student volunteers, Athanasiou said organizers are now looking to to make Big Red Walkshare a “longer lasting effort.” She said she also hopes students will start habitually walking home in groups without the need for volunteers.

Athanasiou said she believes that Big Red Walkshare has helped take a step closer to creating a safer Cornell community.

“The goal of this initiative is to develop a caring community, to shape a culture where you can ask someone where he or she is walking, to make people feel that they are in a place they can approach people,” she said. “It’s about a mutual responsibility to each other.”

Original Author: Nicole Chang