Do campus escorts need escorts?

Although calls for escorts to 8 a.m. classes probably won’t increase, Wednesday’s abduction might scare more students into laying aside their hesitations and calling 624-WALK. While this would be a good thing, we hope the campus appeasement of increased safety concerns with escort services does not sacrifice the safety of the escorts themselves. They also are students and although their campus job puts them at more risk than any of their peers, they lack self-protection.

Escorts do job-shadowing and learn first aid but have only a few hours of formal training. Even though escorts spend most of their time walking alone at night, the University does not require them to take a self-defense class or regularly offer one to them. If escorts cannot even protect themselves, what is the chance of them protecting you?

If you have a heart attack, you are in luck; an escort can give you CPR. But if you are attacked, escorts tell us, they are taught to run away. They are instructed to flee, call 911, and then wait patiently for the police to come. Meanwhile, you are left to deal with the attacker alone.

The thought that escorts are trained to just wait is not very comforting. Even if they chose to help a victim or are attacked themselves, escorts have little training and do not have a weapon, such as mace or a baton, to deal with an aggressor. If they are not allowed to carry a self-protection device, escorts should at least be taught common tips, like – as one escort we talked to didn’t know- if someone points a gun at you, run, because the chances of being fatally hit are miniscule.

So what makes escorts willing to walk alone around the corners of campus late at night with no more protection than their walkie-talkies and flashlights? Is it their less-than $10 an hour average pay? Perhaps escorts just think nothing will happen to them. Regardless of what their sensitivity to danger is, danger does exist. If it did not, why do we even offer the escort service?

Wednesday’s incident is the largest reminder of any personal safety risk since Chris Jenkins’ disappearance last Halloween. People might think escorts are safe because they are male, but then, so were three of last fall’s missing college students.

We hope the University’s focus on safety extends to the tool they use to provide it – our campus escorts. Providing a false sense of security does little for the escorts or those who depend on them.