RUSU are currently working with Reading Buses to consider the feasibility of running a night bus service on campus.
Sophie Davies, RUSU’s Welfare Officer, commented that: “RUSU and the University have worked with Reading buses for a number of years in order to offer an improved service to students. Changes so far have included extending the route of the 20 and 21 services onto campus and the introduction of a student discount cards which offer cheaper prices for students and mean no exact change is needed! For the next partnership project we are investigating the feasibility of running a night bus service on campus which would be much cheaper than a taxi and safer than walking home.”
Indeed, Universities such as Bangor and Keele already have such systems in place; ensuring partygoers do not become prey to unfriendly strangers, late night traffic, or causing themselves injury trying to navigate their way home.
Whilst the Union itself is surrounded by bouncers and security guards, the remainder of campus is not, leaving intoxicated students vulnerable to strangers and traffic as they make their way home. Although some club-goers opt to call a taxi, some students would rather save money by embarking homeward on foot.
Emily Wright, a second year English Literature student, said: ‘When you’ve been drinking you might think walking home on your own will be fine, but people don’t realise how vulnerable a position they might be putting themselves into. I walk home through the Foxhill House exit and it might be nice to have security patrolling that area just to make people feel more relaxed and that their safety is being taken seriously.’
Indeed, the majority of second and third year student homes are located off campus and returning home from the Union could be an unnerving experience.
Charlotte Sexton, another second year English literature student, added: “Living just off Erleigh Road, my walk feels quite safe but that’s only because I live in one of those well known student areas. I’d definitely say that someone should maybe take on the role of making sure that students living in those less obvious areas get home safely. You could even say that the Students’ Union have a responsibility to do this.”
Something that the University’s Security Service does offer for all students and staff though is the ‘Chaperone’ service. This service offers both students and staff who may feel particularly vulnerable at night the option of someone accompanying them to their destination or to track them on CCTV where possible throughout their journey. This service is available from dusk until dawn but the University Security Services specify that: “the service is not guaranteed and is subject to operational needs, however all efforts will be made to offer the service to anyone who needs assistance.”
As well as this, RUSU have their ‘Pay Later’ taxi scheme, which was set up at the beginning of last year after co-operating with taxi firm Top Cars. This scheme allows students to use a ‘Pay Later’ card as payment for the taxi journey home. This initiative is available on a 24-hour service and offers students taxis and a rate of £6 per journey. The ‘Pay Later’ cards are available from the RUSU Hub and when contacting Top Cars students should quote the ‘RUSU Pay Later Taxi Scheme.’ After agreeing a safe meeting place, the taxi driver will text the student with the vehicle registration and taxi colour. Students can buy their card back from the RUSU Hub next time they are on campus in preparation for their next taxi journey.
Another worry for various students is the lack of lighting on campus and this is a problem for those walking home in the dark as it is essential that all students feel safe.
Juliette Parfitt, a second year Classics student, highlighted these dangers for disabled students, particularly those who are partially sighted and said: “The poor lighting makes it hard for me to get around campus and to get home in the dark. It [lighting] is particularly bad outside the library and its quite unfair because being independent is important to all disabled students, and this makes things much more difficult.’
The Disability Advisory Service for the University of Reading commented: “There have been many blind and partially sighted students over the years who have successfully completed degrees at the University of Reading.”
“Students are supported through the Disabled Students Allowances (DSA) system which provides funding for support through Student Finance England. DSA can provide funding for support in the form of notetakers, someone to assist with campus familiarisation and mobility training so that students can learn routes around campus and become more independent of the support. It can also provide support in the form of equipment such as screen readers to help students access course materials more easily. The Disability Advisory Service would always encourage students who are blind or partially sighted to come and talk to us so that we can discuss together the best way to support their learning and life on campus.”
The University notices the importance of aiding disabled students academically however it does not do all it can to assist them in other areas of a typical student lifestyle. Studying for a degree does not only involve reams of assignments but also essential life experiences, including participation in University nightlife.
Although the University cannot take responsibility for lighting and security off-campus, it should be doing all it can for students on campus and the grounds should be considered a beacon of safety for its attendees.