Students at The University of New Mexico are working to improve safety on campus with a new student escort program.

The Associated Students at The University of New Mexico (ASUNM) will receive $100,000 from the New Mexico State Legislature to purchase equipment for a student safety escort program. The funds are among more than $1.65 million designated for UNM to make safety improvements including upgrades to accessibility, lighting, key card systems, security cameras and site improvements to a street corner on campus. 

The safety escort program, known as Lobo Lift, will provide students the option to hail a golf cart driven by peers for safe travel around campus. Funds from the legislature will be used to purchase a small golf cart fleet and make any other investments necessary to get the program started. Additional funds were allocated by UNM President Garnett Stokes for first-year operational costs.

"Our students at UNM have done an excellent job of advocating for increasing safety initiatives on campus. Whether it is lobbying the New Mexico Legislature for additional resources or working with UNM Police on new initiatives, students are having an impact,” Ryan Lindquist, director of UNM Student Activities Center, said. “I am looking forward to seeing how new programs like Lobo Lift escort service evolve under their direction."

Ian May, president of ASUNM, said he hopes the new student-led program will help students feel safer on campus.

“Two things that get talked about in the campus safety spaces are the reality of safety and students feeling safe and I think both are equally important,” May said. “At the end of the day, even if you are safe, but you don’t feel it, your classes are going to be more stressful.”

When the program launches, priority will be placed on evening operation, with targeted start times likely beginning around 6 p.m. and ending around the time libraries close. Lobo Lift will not initially operate on weekends.

“During the day, there’s a lot of students around, a lot of people, and it’s generally pretty safe, but it’s those evening hours when students may want a safe ride to their car,” May said. 

The new program will complement an existing safety escort service. The UNM Police Department offers 24/7 safety escort services to and from all areas on-campus and can be requested by calling dispatch. Lobo Lift will offer an additional travel option to students, especially those who may feel more comfortable regularly utilizing a peer-operated service. Part of the new program’s goal is to be at-the-ready when students need it, May said.

Last summer, ASUNM and Graduate and Professional Students Association (GPSA) students discussed potential safety projects the organizations could take on in the coming year, but a visit to New Mexico State University inspired the peer safety escort program. NMSU offers a similar program known as Pete’s Pickup. After seeing how successful it was in Las Cruces, ASUNM representatives were eager to initiate their own version. Peer-operated safety escort services exist at universities around the country.

The program will be one of several safety investments made on campus with funds from the legislature. UNM will receive more than $42.8 million in state funds for capital renovations, upgrades and additions to its branches and main campuses.The University will also receive $75,000 for improvements and safety upgrades to the intersection of Yale Boulevard and Redondo Drive, similar to the site improvements unveiled earlier this year on the corner of Central Avenue and Girard Boulevard.

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