It’s dark. It’s cold. You just finished some late-night studying in the library and you don’t feel safe walking back to your dorm. What can you do?
You should call the Greencoats. Students by day, these Western Washington University attendees are here to protect and secure our campus by night.
The Greencoats is an organization of student employees who are trained by University Police Officers and other officials in the security department. They provide services such as safety escorts, checking campus buildings to make sure they’re locked from the outside and checking dorm areas and parking lots for illegal activity or safety hazards.
They have the resources to provide equipment to enter a locked car or building and can even help jump someone’s car battery if necessary. They can also provide first aid in the event of an emergency until medical personnel arrives at the scene.
Joshua Dyeson, a third-year at Western, is a recent hire for the Greencoats but already has a strong understanding of the system.
“There are two kinds of shifts: there’s the dormie shift and the rover shift,” he said.
Dormie shifts are assigned in three-hour blocks between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. Dormies perform solo walks around the dorm areas checking for broken items, graffiti and safety hazards.
Rovers work shifts between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m. and check to make sure buildings around campus are locked and secured so only students and staff with keys can get in.
Those on the rover shift get to drive the University’s Public Safety Prius to help primarily with escorts. Dyeson said sometimes the Public Safety logo on the vehicle makes things confusing.
“We are not parking enforcement. I know it is confusing because we have the same sticker on the side, but I promise you, it is a separate thing,” he said.
Another distinctive feature of the Greencoats is the uniforms. Each employee is given a name tag, a green shirt with a logo matching that of the security department, a radio, a large flashlight and a dark green jacket.
Dyeson said one downfall of the jacket is the darker shade of green makes it look almost black at night, so sometimes that works against the safety agenda to stand out.
Lieutenant Anthony Stewart of the University of Washington Police Department suggested an improvement in this area of the program, encouraging the importance of having clearly identifiable security staff.
Lt. Stewart works with a cadet program at UW that is made up of persons above 18 years of age that assist with security at football games and sometimes help with escorts within a one-mile radius of campus. Although the cadet program is different from Western’s Greencoats, Lt. Stewart says the three As are the most helpful and general safety tips he could give to anyone.
“Be aware of your surroundings, assess the situation and have an action— do you stay or do you go? Examine the safest option when you’re out late at night taking the bus or walking home,” he said.
Third-year Jase Picanso is one of the few Western students that have taken advantage of the services the Greencoats provide.
“I work on campus fairly late on Sundays, so I usually call them when I’m finishing up work for a safety escort back to the dorms,” he said. “It’s really convenient, especially when the bus isn’t running anymore.”
Another conflict students like Picanso encounter is the direct connection between the University Police Department and the Greencoats. To call upon the Greencoats, students and staff have to go through the UPD’s non-emergency dispatch line.
“There has been a few times where ... I ended up getting picked up by an actual police car instead of the normal campus security one, so that was a bit intimidating,” Picanso said.
All Greencoats are students and not actually officers, so they are instructed to never get involved in a situation that could potentially be dangerous but to instead immediately radio dispatch.
Even though a police officer would be the right person to call in serious medical or other emergencies, some students struggle with the idea of an officer escorting them back to their place of residence.
“If [the situation] is something a cop or a Greencoat could do, it is most likely [taken care of by] who can get there first,” Dyeson said.
The effort of the Greencoats to keep our campus safe and secure has been around since the mid-1950s, and the program is continuing its slow recovery from the pandemic.
While it may require many improvements, the service is here and accessible for student use. Dyeson said he is eager for Western students to take advantage of this program.
“For people who feel uncomfortable using the services because they’re [worried] about bothering us, please use us. We are bored out of our minds. Give us stuff to do,” he said.
Lt. Stewart also believes the Greencoat program at Western is a positive resource to have.
“I think it is always a good idea when a community is looking out for each other— when students are looking out for other students,” he said.
The Greencoats are still hiring students for paid positions. New hires will be trained by the UPD over the course of five days, where they will learn how to use the radio, how to patrol the areas and how to access the keys for rover shifts.
“I’d definitely recommend [this service] to other people. I’m honestly surprised more students don’t take advantage of it,” Picanso said.
If you feel unsafe on campus after hours, utilize the Greencoats by calling (360) 650-3555 or visit the UPD website for more information.
Deven Meddaugh (she/her) is a sophomore and is a campus life reporter for The Front this quarter. She is an RA in the Edens-Higginson community and in her free time you can catch her hanging out with friends and family, playing Just Dance, re-watching her favorite movies/TV shows or writing.