Cougar Safe Rides returns

Program runs three times a week, aims to prevent sexual assault



Cougar Safe Ride’s mission is to prevent sexual assault and promote safety.

ABBY DAVIS, Evergreen copy chief

Cougar Safe Rides is back in operation and heading into its second weekend of the semester. 

Last weekend, volunteers safely transported about 20 people, said Joshua Wagner, operations and program specialist leader. 

Cougar Safe Rides is a program under the WSU Women*s Center. In addition to a roster of 20-30 active volunteers, a group of six students work behind the scenes and make sure everything is running smoothly, said Alyssa Mannetti, operations and program specialist leader. 

The group was expecting a slow start because of the comprehensive process of completing volunteer background checks and training, Mannetti said. 

The program’s mission is to prevent sexual assault and promote safety, said Sajeenaa Jebanathan, operations and program specialist leader. 

“It’s meant to help anyone feeling unsafe walking around on campus,” she said. “We are a service working for students, so we try our best to reach out and do as much as we can.”

The group is currently recruiting volunteers, Jebanathan said. In addition to individuals, they also train WSU clubs and organizations, such as various Greek chapters. 

There are always two volunteers in the car at all times when picking up students. She said there are never two male volunteers in the car at the same time. Either the driver and person in the passenger seat are both females, or there is one male and one female. 

“We feel like these pairings allow for a safe and comfortable ride if you were by yourself,” Mannetti said. 

There are three Cougar Safe Rides vehicles. On Thursday, there are typically one or two cars out. However, on Friday and Saturday, the group tries to run all three, said Natalie Drozdowski, operations and program specialist leader.      

She said every vehicle is clearly marked. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the group added plexiglass between the front and back of the car. Additionally, drivers and passengers are expected to wear masks.     

Although Cougar Safes Rides picks up at any location, they do not drop off at commercial spots. Wagner said drivers drop students off at residential areas to ensure safety. 

The program is free to all students, Jebanathan said. When they do not have any calls, volunteers are on the lookout and driving around. 

“Safety is number one,” she said. 

During dead week, Cougar Safe Rides operates every night to accommodate students out studying late. Occasionally throughout the semester, volunteers are able to pick students up from night labs, Mannetti said. 

Cougar Safe Rides is out and about in the community from 8 p.m. to midnight Thursdays and 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Students wanting a ride can call WSU-267-SAFE (978-267-7233).