On-Campus Safety: an informative yet slightly depressing post

We all know the world is a scary place. First you leave the safety of your bully-infested elementary school. You progress to the scarier world of a teenager-infested high school, where "everyone" enters their experimentation years and can only do so in the context of things-you-think-are-a-big-deal-that-turn-out-to-be-nothing-later. After you survive that, you might enter a university.

If you pick the University of Toronto, you essentially go to school in a city. Toronto is not New York, but it’s not always safe at night, either.

This doesn’t stop scrawny nerd women like me from walking around boldly after their 9 p.m. classes. Heck, the only time I’ve been harassed in public was in broad daylight. Perhaps the dangers of the city are de-contextualized in the evening news; even so, U of T has some programs in place to promote students' safety just a tad more. One does what one can.

Okay. If there’s one thing every U of T student should know about, it’s the WalkSafer Program. It’s a free-of-charge service offered September through April, weekdays from 7 p.m. to midnight. You call their number, and they can provide you with an escort between buildings on campus, to parking lots, even TTC stops. WalkSafer also operates with Accessibility Services, so accessible vans can be provided. The number is 416-978-7233 (SAFE).

Have you seen those red poles with the blue light and push-to-talk button (for example, the one outside Gerstein)? Thankfully, I’ve never had reason to use one, and, Dionysus-willing, I will never have to; regardless, here’s an interesting piece of information. Another Upbeat blogger* told us that, at Queen’s, the "emergency poles" follow a path, so one can push each one along one's way if one happens to be running from … an assailant. Ours at U of T seem a bit more spread out.

U of T also has an Emergency Alert system. One can register one's mobile phone number to receive an alert, in the form of automated voice call or text message, in the event of a major crisis. Direct-dial land lines at the university are already registered.

Lastly, the University has a Community Safety Office, which links to an even greater range of services and resources, including … equity offices, legal assistance, crisis lines, and even the Workalone Program, for people working on campus during night hours, weekends and holidays (they'll take note of your location and send someone to check on you).

Well, my children, that was very sobering, so I’m done.

- Liesl



* I forget who said it!

3 comments on “On-Campus Safety: an informative yet slightly depressing post

  1. I tried the WalkSafer once and they took so long to show up I huffed off, throwing caution to the freezing January winds! It’s annoying that they don’t tell us that we should expect to find walking escorts in somewhere between 20-30 minutes so you know you’ll still be waiting ALONE in the dark for a good 20-30 minutes. Instead, they give you the impression there won’t be a long wait (especially since you call and let them know early on!). I guess it’s better than nothing but as with most services at UofT I try not to rely on them.

  2. ‘Twas moi, Liesl! Apparently, the same thing should apply to UofT. After my Queen’s pal told me about the poles, and how on their campus, at one pole you can easily see the next one and run in that direction, I purposely walked around the campus to check out the distances between the poles…..and I came to the sad conclusion that, since the poles are like light years away from each other, should anybody actually be chased, he/she probably has a higher chance of survival if they just run blindly without giving the poles a hoot. But that’s just my two cents.

  3. I have to agree with Lucy on this one. I’ve always thought the poles were more useful if there was a medical emergency more than anything.

    Also, I approve of the invoking of Dionysus. Well done. *nods*

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