As a student who enjoys walking back and forth from on-campus residence halls to see people and meet up with friends, I am always aware when walking alone at night. Being a safety-oriented person, I came to Western Washington University prepared to update myself on the safety resources specific to its campus.
This is why I am writing this Q&A – to share what I learned in order to feel confident about my safety on campus.
What campus resources help keep students feel safe and comfortable?
Western offers multiple safety resources for a variety of situations and scenarios.
University Police Sgt. Ron Carpenter emphasized students' use of the University Police Department. If students walking alone at night are questioning their need to call UPD for an escort or for assistance, he said, then they should call. The LIVEsafe app allows students to signal for help from UPD at any hour.
UPD operates the Green Coats program, which hires students as on-campus safety guides for other students. Carpenter recommends avoiding walking on campus alone when possible, as walking with another person or a group can be considerably safer.
Western also has a contracted driving service, the Starlight Shuttle, which allows for accessible and safe transportation both on and off-campus for students after the main bus lines run by Whatcom Transportation Authority close for the night.
What is the Starlight Shuttle and how do students access it?
Starlight Shuttle transports students around campus and the city seven days a week.
“The main goal is really to provide students with that safe and effective transportation option after the WTA buses stop running in the evenings,” said Shelby Zimmerman, Western’s Transportation Services manager.
They run from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sundays. Students can request a ride through their TransLoc app by signing in with a Western email.
Ridership has increased and, according to Zimmerman, provides around 70 rides on any given weekend. Rides can also be requested through their website or by calling (206) 638-7124.
For students riding with non-Western passengers, Zimmerman said one guest is allowed per ride on the shuttle.
The Starlight Shuttle will pick up or drop off students within an approximate 5-mile radius around campus.
What do University Police recommend for students to be safe on campus?
Carpenter said that as a form of safety, students could get their own safety protection devices such as a Taser.
“Buy yourself that Taser,” Carpenter said. “Pepper spray tends to affect you and other people also if you have to spray it, but it's a good tool to use.”
He added that a Taser wouldn't seriously injure an attacker, but it will disable them long enough to get away quickly and call for help.
“Tasers and stun guns are not considered weapons and are allowed in the dorm rooms. People should be familiar with how they work before they use them,” he said.
Carpenter said pepper spray and Mace are also allowed on campus. People should have an understanding of their effects before using it, as unintended targets can be affected by the residual spray when it is deployed.
What should Western students who live off campus do to feel safe?
Since many of UPD’s resources are geared towards on-campus residents, addressing safety off-campus was a big question of mine. Former Western student Emily Parks lived both on and off campus and gained experience in navigating safety.
In an email, Parks laid out her safety tips:
- Always make sure a friend or family member has your location in case they need to track you.
- Keep your phone somewhat charged so it doesn't die when you are out and about.
- When going downtown or somewhere you aren't familiar with, it is best to always have a buddy with you.
Parks said she has multiple friends that carry self-protective devices like Tasers. Parks herself carries pepper spray when she goes out at night.
Avery Rossman (she/her) is an opinions reporter for The Front. When she’s not writing, you can find her in the gym or cracking jokes and laughing with her friends!