Eastern Michigan University’s Department of Public Safety currently offers an escort service to students called SEEUS. If you’ve ever seen a pair of individuals in yellow coats standing late at night on campus, that’s them.
The purpose of SEEUS is to walk or drive students around campus if they feel unsafe doing so alone. Unfortunately, SEEUS is not used much despite its services being offered from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Friday.
Those at EMU who supported the establishment of SEEUS thought this might be due to a lack of advertising. At first, this did seem to be the issue. Even the SEEUS page on the EMU website has incorrect information about hours of operation. The webpage also doesn’t mention that there is a van shift for driving students as well.
Additionally, SEEUS was never mentioned to incoming students during freshman orientation. Besides that, there is a lack of advertisement throughout the year on campus. The only flyers they have on campus are ones for potential employees, not potential users of the service.
The SEEUS social media pages are also not very active, which is disappointing since there are four supervisors. Instagram could be a powerful tool for sharing information about SEEUS, public safety, self-defense, and more. Instead, it is mostly just photos of the employees, which is not helpful for students who want to learn more about their services.
Unfortunately, though lack of advertising is definitely an issue for SEEUS, it is clearly not the main reason for a lack of interest from students. EMU’s Student Government, Sexual Assault and Rape Awareness, and SEEUS themselves collaborated in making a survey to see why students were not using the service at hand.
The first question was, "Do you typically take advantage of safety escorts (SEEUS) when on campus at night? Why or why not?" Less than 25 percent of participants answered that they have used SEEUS. This is already a low number, and of those who answered affirmatively, 30 percent said they only used SEEUS because they are friends with a SEEUS employee or because they are a SEEUS employee.
Those at DPS would have to look through the dispatch logs to see exactly how many walks a night are given to their own SEEUS staff, but it seems that a good portion of what they do is that. Is there really a purpose of having SEEUS on campus if they are just being paid to walk their bosses or friends home after a shift?
Those who did not use SEEUS were asked if they knew of it and its purpose; 80% of respondents stated that they did. So clearly, the issue is not that students don‘t know about SEEUS, but that people just don’t want to use it.
Participants were asked what barriers they thought SEEUS has. Many said that there is not enough information about how to use it or their hours. Some said they would only want to use SEEUS if they had a golf cart or the van available.
A concern that was voiced repeatedly was the concept of SEEUS itself. ”They are just students,” says one participant. “SEEUS students get harassed as much as regular students,“ says another. Similar sentiments go on and on.
This raises a great point. Is it appropriate to have these young adults out at night being advertised as protectors of students? Perhaps we should have actual officers or trained security instead. After all, there have been instances of sexual harassment, gunmen, and other horrible dangers on campus at night, some of which affected the SEEUS employees themselves.
It seems clear that if SEEUS is to stay on this campus, they need to provide more accessible services with a van or golf cart. Even if this does occur, I still think EMU administration needs to ask some serious ethical questions about whether it's safe to have students running this service instead of trained adults.
EMU wants its students to feel safe, and I don’t think SEEUS is doing that.