The nights of partying at the University of Regina’s The Owl and worrying about getting back to your dorm before 11 p.m. without stepping into the snow are over, for now. As part of a trial program called Safe Route, the indoor pathways between The Owl and Paskwāw/Wakpá Towers (former North/South Residences) will welcome their residents home with open doors until 1 a.m. every Friday.
“It’s been something we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” says Devon Peters, president of the U of R Student Union, adding this is the first time the door opening hours have been extended.
“We negotiated with the campus security and residence services, and we are going to be doing it as a trial program for the near future,” said Peters. “And once the trial’s off, in around February, we are going to review the program and see how it’s going, then hopefully be able to extend it two more nights in a week.”
Peters also explained why they started this trial program, “The majority of (residents) are students who are of age and are looking for something to do on a week night. Walking outside at night in the cold is not safe, (and) it’s not comfortable.”
Peters described the result so far as “very good.” He says the policy means more than just avoiding the coldness. “By opening up these interior corridors at night we can help students (to) be more safe,” he said. “We can take some unsafe activities that have been occurring in the residences, alcohol consumption and stuff like that, and move it into a location that’s more suited for it. The Owl, where (it's) supervised and safe, and we have waiters and staff around.”
Peters said the trial also benefits students who don’t drink by “taking students who want to drink out of residence.” “We take them away from people who would rather be studying, who would rather be in a quiet space in the residence and not have to deal with someone throwing in a house party,” he said.
To Peters, having the corridors open doesn’t equal encouraging students to drink late. “The students are going to drink regardless. Alcohol and academics have been connected since the 1500s,” said Peters. “Drunk people are coming in and out of the residence regardless.”
“I think it’ll be good, so then people aren’t walking outside, so they don’t get cold,” said Brett King, a student living in Paskwāw Tower.
But some students suggested the extended opening hours are not enough.
“I just finished a semester in England, and they have a 24-hour library. So I think (considering) the size that the university is, there has to be 24-hour access,” said Joyann Tonge, a resident of Wakpá Tower. “It’s just needed.”
Peters thinks to have 24-hour access is “a good idea” despite the difficulties to execute it. “The challenge is maintaining a secure campus, but we are taking the steps to manage the risk,” said Peters. He suggested there are not enough campus security guards on at night, because the spending increases on campus security guards will be under administrative spending, which has been “opposed to” by the university over the last couple of years.
According to Peters, they have already made progress before extending door-opening hours by successfully extending the closing time of the Grind, a coffee shop, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. during exam time.
Peters said he is “pretty optimistic” about the trial. “I would hope that it becomes the norm,” he said.