SAFEwalk should take a hike

Student organizations’ skyrocketing budget requests threaten to substantially raise the cost of a UW education next year. If student government is serious about preventing such an increase (and they should be), the Student Services Finance Committee must make some tough choices over the upcoming weeks.

Allocating money is all about priorities. There are some worthy student groups asking for worthy budget increases, but these increases must be balanced by cuts in other programs.

Student groups are passionate about their money, so it can be difficult to know what is pork and what is prime rib.

Fortunately, we’re here to help, beginning with tonight’s budget decisions.

At tonight’s meeting, the SSFC should lower the salary requests of the UW Labor Center. The Labor Center wants to pay some of its staff $12 an hour, and its interns $10 an hour. Both these amounts are markedly above the $8 an hour offered to other student organization staffers. There is no logical reason why the Labor Center staff should be paid 50 percent more than other student laborers; SSFC can begin to trim its budget by lowering the Labor Center?s salary requests.

SSFC also needs to seriously reevaluate its funding of SAFE Nighttime Services, the organization responsible for SAFEwalk and SAFEride. While we agree that SAFE Nighttime Services’ free late-night transportation is vital to campus safety, the existing program is in desperate need of an overhaul.

A disastrous combination of low student usage and exorbitant operating costs has left SAFEwalk obsolete in comparison to SAFEride. Last year, there were only 946 SAFEwalks given — less than three a day. Even during September, the busiest month for SAFEwalk, there were less than 50 escorts per week, hardly worth the nearly $100,000 student government annually spends on the program.

While SAFEwalk is underutilized, SAFEride continues to be a cost-effective and popular option for stranded students (there were 13,232 rides given last year). Taxi rides and a handful of dispatchers cost significantly less per ride than the $101 each escorted walk costs students.

Put it another way: If you have the choice between paying $100 to walk home, or $10 to get you a ride, which would you pick?

Our point exactly.
SAFEwalk is a great idea, but an impractical one at current costs. Unless SSFC can make SAFEwalk as cost-effective as SAFEride, student government should cut the program.


This article was published Oct 9, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Oct 9, 2001 at 12:00 am


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