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Ohio State Student Safety Service to hire more student drivers

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With increased crime awareness on campus, more students are taking the university up on its offer to drive them home after dark.

Student Safety Service is an Ohio State program with a small fleet of vehicles used to drive students, staff and faculty to and from their nearby homes or cars after dark. The premise behind the program is that at OSU, people should never feel like they don’t have an alternative to walking alone if they feel unsafe.

And they’re hiring.

Student Safety Service made more than 24,000 rides last year and typically employs between 30 and 40 students. The service will begin another round of hiring in about three weeks.

OSU’s Student Safety Service received $50,000 from the Parents Advancement Council to upgrade its fleet of escort vehicles earlier this year. With the money, Student Safety Services added two Subaru Foresters to its fleet, which already included two minivans from the early to mid-2000s and two

Subaru Foresters paid for with Undergraduate Student Government funds in 2011.

Sean Bolender, the Coordinator for the Department of Public Safety, University Police Division, said most candidates for the job are studying criminology or security and intelligence, but it isn’t a requirement.

“It’s mostly people that want to go into law enforcement that see us as value,” he said.

At a minimum students must be 18 years old with a clean driving record, a valid license, be enrolled at OSU and be in good academic standing with the university, which means they must possess at least a 2.0 GPA.

The selection process consists of an initial interview, as well as a second interview and a work sample test. The test is given from 12 a.m. to 3 a.m. so that applicants get a taste of the hours they are expected to work, since the typical shift is from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Bolender said when hiring, he tries to find the candidates that would be the best fit for the job.

“We will never fill positions based on just needing the position filled,” Bolender said. “We will only hire the right people regardless of the amount of positions there are.”

As a result, he said few people leave the organization prematurely.

“Our retention rates are pretty high,” Bolender said. “We don’t have students quit very often because we’re getting the right people in here with the same core values as one another.”

Each Student Safety Service officer undergoes two days of training. During this period they are taught the specifics of the program as well as CPR and first aid, including how to use the defibrillators found within each Student Safety vehicle.

In addition to medical training, student officers are taught defensive tactics by an OSU Police officer.

“We recognize that students are placed in situations that would be considered higher stress that have the potential to escalate into something,” Bolender said. “That rarely happens, but we still want to be prepared,” Bolender said.

Student Safety Service places a value on integrity and looks for it in each candidate.

“We really value the role that we fulfill in this university and we want students who are going to take on the same level of passion, and that’s the only way we can be successful,” Bolender said.

Joshua Pate, a fourth-year in criminology, has been a Student Safety Service officer for more than a year and described the job to be like none other on campus.

“No other student job compares to this hiring process,” Pate said. “It’s long and not for everyone.”

Reed Palmieri, a fifth-year in criminology and sociology, has been a Student Safety Service officer for more than a year and encouraged other students to consider working there.

“If you like cruising around at night and you like helping people out, then definitely do it,” Palmieri said.

Bolender said Student Safety Service officers don’t look at being an officer as just another job. Officers spend eight hours a night with one another and get to be pretty close.

“They end up more like a family,” Bolender said. “They hang out outside of work, they help each other with homework, and will enroll in the same classes.”

 

Correction: September 10, 2012

An earlier version of this story stated that the Columbus Division of Police trains members of the Student Safety Service. It
is the Ohio State Police that train them.

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