i’M SAFE – Barger Leadership Institute Student Voices


Hey, you! Yes, you. Are you afraid of the dark? If you are, then you’re a part of a very specific group of people — a group of people who also feel the same way. However, those of you who do feel afraid are also part of a different group of people. You walk home at night, unsure. What lurks in the dark? Do you want to find out? (probably not). Okay, maybe that’s an overestimate. Or maybe it’s an underestimate? Hard to tell.

i’M SAFE was dedicated to finding answers the past few months. We wanted to know a) who feels unsafe? and b) who can help them? We are happy to say that we can definitively give answers to these questions. Suffice it to say, we are dissatisfied with the answers. However, we should first talk about our journey, our story. It wasn’t a long road, but it is a road worth reflecting on.

When i’M SAFE was formed, we had little more to bring us together than the BLI itself. Four freshmen and two sophomores bound together by some inexplicable love of nighttime campus safety, but not much else. We like to think we’re fun people, but how were we supposed to know that? Our first meetings were like rocky road ice cream; that is, like a rocky road. It wasn’t perfect, okay? Excitement and motivation were high, but none of us knew what to do. It was almost a disaster really–kinda like melted rocky road. A slush of uncertainty mixed in with an abundance of ideas, along with a sprinkle of dissonance. Sure, we could put some ideas out and throw out others, but the scope of our project was yet to be realized. The navigation through this sludge of rocky road had immediately begun.

The next few meetings were very formative. We slowly refined our idea into something: a survey with 100 respondents. Next, we had to set up an event: a table set up on the Diag. Finally, we wanted to talk to DPSS or SAPAC about our survey. We had some direction, and all that was left was to execute. Ever watch a video of a bunch of dominos falling? It was like that.

A lot of our time was spent on the survey. Luckily, Shubhangi is a statistics wizard, so we sent out an amazing survey that received 117 people responses. More on the results later. Let’s talk more about our tabling event. We created a surveying event out on the Diag with paper surveys for people to fill out and made sure we had incentives to do so; free coffee and mini-flashlights were definitely the way to go. It was absolutely not what we expected it to be: a few hours of chatting up passerbys, chillin’ in the Diag spot. The chillin’ part is definitely accurate; we were actively fighting frostbite (who knew it would that cold in November-clearly not us!). In reality, we had people stop by at about 15 minutes before the hour up until 10 after the hour, but never after. However, we were still pleased with our results: 24 surveys filled out, two boxes of coffee poured (we promise most of it wasn’t us trying to keep warm), and 50 flashlights handed out. If you were in our Leadership Lab, you know the type. These surveys were piled in with our general surveys.

Before we could talk to DPSS or SAPAC, we had to come up with a nice report for them to take a look at. Once again, Shubhangi came to the rescue with T-tests and her statistics magic. The results? Unfortunately, women feel significantly more unsafe at night. We can’t look at our survey results and say why, but we do know what the data tells us. What we also know is that many students on campus are unaware of the resources out there to help them get home at night.

The three BLI Leadership Habits that were essential to our project were Value Difference, Expect Challenges, and Combine-Collect-Create. From the start, it was clear that we were all very different; we had different interests, personalities, and work ethics. So during our first meeting, we made sure to use these differences to our advantage and also made sure to identify what would work collectively in terms of running our meetings. As a result, this made both the execution of the project along with the team meetings very efficient. In addition, given the short time frame of the Leadership Lab, it was clear that challenges were inevitable. We made sure that we always had a backup plan in what we were doing in case we encountered a challenge that would prevent us from executing out our original plan. Last, in order to execute out our project, we made sure to combine our ideas, collect qualitative and quantitative data by surveying students through social media platforms and through an event on the Diag, and ultimately worked to create a data report that we will hand into DPSS and SAPAC.  

Our most important challenge was figuring out the details of what exactly we want to do to make the campus a safer space. We had big ideas initially such as starting a student run system of walking students to their destinations at night, or fixing the night lights on campus. We were confounded by variables such as which areas we want to cover and improving the safety of fraternities or other social organizations. We worked through by critically analyzing every possible solution in the context of the time and resource limits. When we finally decided on creating a data backed and usable report for campus organizations that aim to improve safety students such as DPSS or SAPAC, we were able to take off from there.

While i’M SAFE isn’t going to go the distance, we still plan on advocating safety on campus as individuals, we will not continue this as a collective group effort. However, we do plan on staying connected with the BLI by attending Lunch & Learns to catch up and speak to other members of the leadership lab about our experience, as well as keep in contact with each other.


By: Adam Cohn, Anna Joshi, Shubhangi Kumari, Gregory Meyer, Ben Oostendorp, and Tanushri Thakur

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