The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm
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Safer streets in Grinnell: The S&B examines informal campus courtesy ride program

In recent weeks, rumors purporting an end to courtesy rides from campus security have circulated among students.

Courtesy rides are a service offered by Campus Security through which students may call security to be picked up and escorted, typically to a location across campus or to a nearby off-campus residence.

While fears of gender-based violence and harassment pervade the minds of students walking at night, particularly off-campus, institutional policies and culture can be crucial to uphold and create avenues for student safety.

As part an ongoing series on student safety at night, The S&B felt that this rumor need be investigated.

“We are still providing safety rides upon request from the campus community,” wrote James Shropshire, director of campus security, in an email to The S&B. Shropshire noted that there may be a wait time if security staff is responding to an emergency or has other service calls. This semester campus security has been operating with a reduced staff. However, Shropshire is in the process of hiring for three open positions in the campus security office.

“Any significant change to our services would be announced to the campus community in advance of the ‘sunset’ date,” wrote Shropshire. “I have no intention of eliminating or decreasing our safety ride service, in fact, I am looking to expand a shuttle service to Wal-Mart and Hy-Vee after students return from winter break.”

While Campus Security intends to expand their shuttle service, SGA is also working to increase levels of safety both on and off-campus.

“I really want students to know that they’re still doing escorts, they didn’t stop,” said Khadijah Toumbou ’19, Student Government Association vice president of student affairs. “I encourage people to [use the escorts off campus] … especially if you’re a woman or student of color.”

However, Toumbou noted, courtesy escorts are a Campus Security practice, not an official policy. She added that she intends to work on formalizing the practice in cooperation with Shropshire and other members of SGA.

Beyond formalizing the courtesy ride service, Toumbou and other SGA cabinet members are working on several other initiatives surrounding safety and prevention. Toumbou is the co-chair of the Harm Prevention Committee, along with Wellness Coordinator Jen Jacobson ’95.

Students’ safety off-campus is implicitly related to on-campus culture. Many students travel to High Street or Broad Street to attend parties, in part due to the restrictions on alcohol consumption on campus. The Harm Reduction Committee aims to foster a safer party culture on-campus.

Toumbou proposed extending Harris parties to a later time so that students have more time on-campus instead of off-campus where there are no official security measures. At Harrises, Toumbou noted, All Campus Event Security (ACES) is present and there is food available to mitigate the effects of alcohol. She also proposed serving alcohol at the beginning of Harrises to incentivize upperclassmen to come early, which then would set a norm of parties starting earlier for the entire campus.

“Then you’re in a safe environment when alcohol consumption is happening,” she said.

The S&B’s investigation into student safety at night will focus on institutional forces and responsibilities. The investigation will evaluate the role of both Grinnell College and the town of Grinnell. Future pieces will include but are not limited to discussing the role of zoning laws in lighting distribution, the office of campus security and avenues of recourse available for students who have experienced harassment or assault off-campus.

This series is open and evolving. Please contact [fruchter] or [wraychlo] if you would like to share your story or give your input to this investigation. 

A campus safety van parked outside of the JRC on 8th Avenue. These vehicles are used in the informal courtesy ride service the campus offers.
Photo by Sarina Lincoln
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