Help Van provides safe transportation for students, staff


A transportation service is available for all students, staff or visitors needing assistance to or from campus or a Greek property.

Dakota Carpenter

After a long night of studying, you may find yourself leaving one of the most common campus buildings that the safety escort service visits, such as Parks Library or the College of Design.

If students, faculty or staff ever feel unsafe or apprehensive about walking to a university-owned property or somewhere in greek land, the safety escort service is just a call away. 

The safety escort service is handicap accessible and will pick up and drop off students, faculty and staff at any university owned property without charge. 

The Safety Escort Service has the right to refuse escorts to people who behave improperly, are abusive to escort personnel or abuse the service, according to the safety escort website.

The service is operated by 17 students known as community service officers. Community service offer students are responsible for operating the safety escort service, locking and unlocking campus buildings and patrolling campus among other things.

Dylan Bouge, senior in sociology, is the program’s student coordinator, and he is responsible for hiring the community service officers, scheduling their shifts and relaying information to the program’s liaison officer, ISU Police Lt. Deborah Larkin.

“It’s a self-sustaining student-run program for the most part,” Larkin said. “It’s organized by students [and] it’s scheduled by students.”

Alex Niebuhr, senior in environmental science, is one of those community service officers. Niebuhr has been involved with the program for the past year and now holds a lead officer position. As a lead community service officer, Niebuhr is responsible for overseeing safety escort shifts and assisting with safety escorts if the help van gets overloaded with calls.

“Each shift is going to be completely different,” Niebuhr said. “Some nights are going to be really busy and some nights you might only get one call.”

Iowa State has offered this service for about 17 years and last year the safety escort service received more than 6,000 calls. Bouge said the number of escorts provided on a particular shift vary.

“I had 35 safety escorts last night [during a] shift that ran from 5:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m.,” Bouge said. “With the weather being cold, it’s not uncommon [to give that many safety escorts].”

Students, faculty and staff have access to a safety escort from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day when classes are in session. When students call to request a safety escort, they may be connected to ISU Police’s dispatch service, or put on hold for a brief period of time.

“If the dispatcher puts you on hold it’s because they are dealing with a more emergent issue,” Larkin said. “When you’re put on hold, they will get to you as soon as they possibly can.”

The University of Iowa offers a similar service called Nite Ride. Nite Ride is a bus that is driven by a university security officer, and follows two set routes, according to the the university’s public safety website

Nite Ride only picks up women and will only pick them up from certain locations, according to the website.

Alton Poole, crime prevention specialist with the University of Iowa Police Department, said Nite Ride was made and established and made gender-specific during a time when downtown Iowa City was facing problems with sexual assaults.

Iowa State’s Help Van is available to all students, faculty and staff and provides a safe alternative to reach a destination.

Students are encouraged to use this service at any time they do not feel comfortable walking or taking the bus to a university-owned establishment.

The number for the safety escort is 294-4444.