Emerson Buddy System takes off

by Shafaq Patel / Beacon Correspondent • December 1, 2016

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Piper Clark, a resident assistant, was one of three students who started the group.
Courtesy of Piper Clark
Piper Clark, a resident assistant, was one of three students who started the group.
Courtesy of Piper Clark
 While students discussed street harassment during Emerson’s Stop Negative Attention in Public spaces week at the end of October, three concerned students collaborated to create the Emerson Buddy System to improve campus safety.

In October, students Piper Clark, Megan Jensen, and Teresa Powers created a closed Facebook group for the system, meaning members must be verified by an admin before joining. The rules in the group are simple: Students post the time, starting location, and destination of their journey. When a buddy comments, they must like the reply to confirm. Students have requested buddies for trips to and from the CVS on Washington Street, South Station, and the North End.

Clark, a senior communications sciences and disorders major, said students were initially hesitant to use the group, which now has over 400 members.

“It’s showing so much about our community and how much we want to care for each other and support each other, even if it is just walking,” Clark said. “That’s what’s so great about it. It’s just walking.”

The organizers decided that they wanted to create the buddy system so students have a resource to feel safe when walking in addition to Emerson College Police Department’s escort system. ECPD’s escort system is available 24 hours a day to the Emerson community. Police officers are available to escort students between locations on campus.

“It can be kind of tense walking down the street with a police officer,” Clark said.

Ashley Dunn, a junior communications sciences and disorders major, used the buddy system to walk from Piano Row to Little Building around midnight. She said she did not want to deal with the Whisky Saigon bar crowd, since the people can be aggressive.

“I know a lot of the students feel very uncomfortable [with the club crowd] too, and I don’t think the officers here always do their best to help the students with that,” Dunn said. “That is why I like the buddy system because I feel more comfortable asking another student for help than going to ECPD.”

Clark also thinks the locations ECPD can escort students from is very limited. With the buddy system, students can also ask for someone to travel with them off-campus.

Kelsey Costa, a sophomore writing, literature, and publishing major, asked in the Facebook group for someone to walk with her to Faneuil Hall for the tree lighting ceremony earlier last month.

“The event was at night,” Costa said. “I don’t feel that comfortable walking alone at night because I am a young female student.”

The founders of the Buddy System Facebook page plan to offer a similar program, SafeHalo—created by a Rutgers University student—in coming weeks. This service offers a designated phone number for students to text and request two vetted students, called “Halos,” for late night walks on Saturdays. Clark said the group is still discussing particular pickup locations, but aims to launch the platform next semester.