On-campus security escort programs limit services during pandemic
The University’s after hours security escort organizations will offer fewer services and programs for the fall semester as a result of decreased demand during the pandemic.
The Cougar Ride program, offered by UH Parking and Transportation, will operate one van on a limited schedule Sunday through Thursday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The Student Government Association’s Cougar Pack program has yet to resume operations or to finalize plans for Fall 2020.
“The University always seeks to deliver a high level service for students who need to move around campus during late night hours,” said Shawn Lindsey, executive director for Media Relations. “Cougar Ride and UH Police Department work as co-producers of safety (on campus).”
The Cougar Ride security escort program has reduced their services based on usage trends. The revised schedule offers security escorts during periods of historically peak usage while cutting operations during times of traditionally low ridership, said Neil Hart, executive director for Parking and Transportation.
“For example, Sunday has traditionally been Cougar Ride’s busiest day, and the service has been least utilized on Fridays, Saturdays and after 1 a.m. in past semesters,” Hart said. “The schedule has been adjusted accordingly to minimize the impact (to students).”
In previous semesters, the Cougar Ride program operated from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. daily and from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. during the summer and on holidays.
The Cougar Pack intends to resume operations during the fall semester and has begun taking steps to continue offering security escort services in the fall with coronavirus health and safety protocols in place, said SGA vice president Hiba Rashid.
Rashid is working with the UH Emergency Planning division to create a COVID-19-conscious Cougar Pack reopening plan featuring hygiene related guidelines and has received approval for her original plan. How soon the program can resume operations will be determined by the speed at which the proposal gains University approval.
“When (Cougar Pack) continues operations this fall, we hope to be an additional transportation resource to the community,” Rashid said. “We will provide a very safe option for students to use.”
The initiative, supported by UH Campus Safety and the division of Administration and Finance, intends to relieve strain on UHPD by providing students with rides from the M.D. Anderson library to their residence hall or vehicle.
Prior to the pandemic, Cougar Pack supplemented UHPD and Cougar Ride security escort services Tuesday through Thursday from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Alterations to Fall 2020 hours of operation have yet to be announced.
For some students who have used on-campus security escort services before, concerns over exposure to the virus in Cougar Ride and Cougar Pack vehicles is minimal.
“I might have some concerns if I am riding with other students but since it is a quick ride and I will have my mask on, I will most likely feel safe,” said teaching and learning junior Zena Abousaway.
For others, the service’s usefulness counterbalances concerns about the coronavirus.
“When I return to campus, I probably will still use this service just because it’s so helpful,” said teaching and learning junior Emma Gruenberger. “I would probably have some concerns but it would be the same as riding a bus or in a car with friends, so I would just be super mindful of what I touch and make sure to wash my hands.”