Safewalk in negotiations for new scheduling system

By Amanda Garner

Safewalk is seeking a new tactic to organize its 23 noble volunteers.

Safewalk coordinator Joey Brocke says they are currently in negotiations with the university’s IT department for developing a new scheduling system that will be accessible through the volunteers’ Student Centre. The system will make it easier to ensure that there is always a pair — one male and one female — available to escort students anywhere on campus as well within a 10-minute walk.

The easy accessibility of the new scheduling software will simplify changing shifts and guarantee full teams to cover all shifts.

“The new system we are putting together will eliminate the need for endless emailing,” said Brocke. “It will remove any confusion that can be caused by awkwardly worded emails and will literally put all the five or six documents that I currently use all into one place.”

The current scheduling system is time consuming and strenuous.

“It takes a long time, many different documents and far too many Red Bulls to get the schedule together — and that is a monthly exercise.” Brocke said that time could be better spent on program promotion and building a connection between Safewalk and the campus community.

The decrease in time spent scheduling will decrease money allocated to administration and redistribute it to more feasible areas like equipment, advertisements and volunteer appreciation events.

The new project was originally going to be developed by a third party player and put into use 7for the 2011-2012 school year but has recently been started over in order to ensure the product meets all of Safewalk’s needs. The new system is now being developed internally by the IT department and at its earliest, will be in place by January 2012.

“The impact on students, staff, faculty and visitors to campus will be a more reliable system,” said Brocke. “If our volunteers have a clearer method of seeing and knowing their shifts, finding replacements and getting shift reminders, it is less likely that volunteers will miss shifts and the more volunteers we have on the better the service we can offer.”

Brocke said this might be visible through quicker response times and more teams in more locations being accessible to escort campus members to their destinations.

“I would show up and find out that my partner had forgotten about her shift and then not be able to find a replacement. I couldn’t go out then because we have to work in pairs.” said Scott Wier, a former Safewalk volunteer.

Safewalk received a quality money grant of $2,000 from the SU to pay for the implementation of the new system in 2009-2010. Brocke said that when it became apparent that the timeline for the project was going to be larger then originally thought, the SU granted a re-allocation of some of the funds in order to purchase jackets for the program immediately.

With the 2011-2012 grant application the original $2,000 was topped up to begin the process of developing the new system.

Negotiation with the IT department are ongoing and the exact cost for the development and upkeep of the program is yet to be determined.

“If we find that the cost is becoming too prohibitive, the project would need to be re-evaluated and any unused funds returned to the SU at that time,” said Brocke. “I would definitely say that paying a bit more and waiting a bit longer will be very worth it — the long-term implications of this system have potential to make large changes in the allocation of the annual budget for the program.”

When asked how other university Safewalk programs are solving their scheduling problems, Brocke said “I have yet to hear of a comparable software solution being used. Most Safewalk programs in the country have smaller budgets than ours and most have a drastically different system in place.”

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