Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


SAFEwalk faces staff departures

[media-credit name=’JAKE NAUGHTON/Herald photo’ align=’alignright’ width=’336′]Safewalk_JN[/media-credit]

The University of Wisconsin’s SAFEwalk program is facing
hard times as a large number of its most experienced employees are quitting over
dissatisfaction with the way the program is being run under its current

Citing a lack of concern from management, multiple veteran
SAFEwalk escorts have quit this week, ending their tenures before the end of
the semester. This has left the program understaffed for the month and able to
schedule just two teams of walkers on most nights and only one team on
Saturdays, according to a schedule obtained by The Badger Herald.


“It’s not typical for SAFEwalkers to quit,” said Dana De Met,
a UW senior and now former SAFEwalk employee. “There are people who’ve been
here for years who in the past couple weeks decided to quit. I can’t work here
anymore; it’s too depressing.”

De Met and a small group of SAFEwalk employees on their last
night of duty expressed in an interview their grievances with the current

According to De Met, current supervisor Lisa Fike and UW
Transportation Services Administrator Gordon Graham have been cutting the
program while demand for its services has never been higher, causing people to
get turned down for escort requests because there are no teams available.

Fike declined to comment on the situation Wednesday.

UW senior Andy Kellner said the employees requested adding
another team of walkers for each night after UW junior Brittany Zimmermann was
found slain in her home last month. Their requests were denied.

De Met said the only response the employees received from
Graham was an e-mail telling them to increase the time they spent on patrol
every night and to not let homework interfere with providing escorts.

“For that to be his only response to one of the biggest safety
issues on this campus for the entire year is absolutely ridiculous,” De Met
said. “We’ve never turned down a walk because we were doing homework. We’ve
never even been late to a walk because we were doing homework.”

Graham said he has heard the criticism that the program is
not staffed well-enough to meet the demand but added he does not believe too
many people are being turned down.

But according to De Met, the management has also been out of
touch with the employees, adding the other walkers who say their concerns about
the program are not listened to or considered.

“I’m quitting out of protest,” De Met said. “If they’re not
going to compromise whatsoever with us then I’m not going to give them my time.”

De Met said there used to be monthly staff meetings and
weekly e-mails from their old supervisor to keep everyone informed. Since Fike
took over the program, he added, there has not been a full staff meeting since
last September.

Graham said to the best of his knowledge, SAFEwalk escorts
meet with their supervisor every night when they check in at the start of their

According to the former employees, this is not the case. The
only person the two-member walking teams meet with when they check in is the
student dispatcher.

“I’ve only seen her personally in the office twice, and I’m
here probably three nights a week,” De Met said.

Graham said he thinks the students are mostly just upset
about the changes that naturally come from switching the service from a mostly
student-run program to one controlled by “some real guidance.” He added
SAFEwalk’s communication is getting better and the program is only getting

The disgruntled escorts, however, said that is untrue and
that there is no communication between them and Fike.

“The only thing we ever hear from [Fike] is timesheet
e-mails,” DeMet said. “Once every two weeks, we’ll get an e-mail from her
saying ‘Timesheets due on Sunday’ in the subject line and there won’t be any
body to the message. She usually communicates in that way quite a bit.”

The former SAFEwalk employees said Fike is not familiar with
the dispatcher program and policies, and once the experienced workers have all
left there will be nobody to train new hires.

Ultimately, the group said they were most concerned about
the safety of this campus, not their jobs, as most of them are graduating soon
and would be ineligible to continue at their positions.

“I think this is something that needs to be brought to the
students,” DeMet said. “It’s their safety, and it’s being sacrificed by
decisions being made by people that don’t know what they’re doing.”


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