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Night rider

For senior Tara Wasserman, driving people around isn’t a hassle; it’s a job.

Wasserman spends her nights as part of SAFE Team, a Student Government agency that provides free transport services to students.

“Basically, we ensure the safety of the students from where they’re going to where they’re coming from,” said Wasserman, a music major with a minor in business.

Wasserman said she applied to SAFE Team as a sophomore because it’s a night job with flexible hours.

“I had a lot of daytime classes (and) early morning classes, so I couldn’t get a part-time job working at the mall or something,” she said.

But being on the SAFE Team is not merely driving around, as many students think. When business is slow, SAFE Team patrols parking lots to ensure that there is no shattered glass and that no one is trying to break into cars.

“We try to keep a presence on campus to prevent crime, especially break-ins in cars,” Wasserman said.

SAFE Team also aids motorists with vehicle trouble.

“If you see a motorist with his flashing lights on and everything, you go over to see what’s up,” she said.

SAFE Team stations its members around the most popular nightly on-campus destination for students, the Andros dining hall as well.

“I’ve studied for many tests while we’re sitting at Andros waiting for an escort,” she said.

Wasserman said that the first thing SAFE Team employees do is clock in at the computer in the office, which is located in the lower level of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center. The dispatcher denotes all the available carts that are working for the night. Employees pick out keys to the cart they want to drive for the night, then go to the lot where the golf carts are parked, and with a general maintenance checklist, check things such as the cart lights and the air pressure in the tires. The drivers sign it, have their partner sign it, and the dispatcher signs it. Simply hopping on a cart and driving off is unheard of at SAFE Team.

“Once your dispatcher signs it, you grab a radio – every team has one – and you drive around and patrol lots and see if anyone wants rides,” she said.

Having a partner is a requirement of all carts drivers, which Wasserman likes.

“You’re always on the cart with somebody, so you’re always going to have someone to talk to, which is nice,” she said.

Wasserman said a person is considered a rookie for his or her first semester on SAFE Team and cannot move up until the “rookie exam,” as Wasserman calls it, has been passed. The exam tests employees’ knowledge of SAFE Team vernacular, such as the many codes that SAFE Team uses for parking lots, buildings and communication over radio.

The general consensus on why most students call SAFE Team is laziness, but Wasserman said that in light of the recent murder of former USF student and faculty member Ronald Stem near Magnolia Apartments, SAFE Team has experienced an increase in calls.

“People don’t want to walk around campus late at night anymore, which I completely understand; I don’t want to walk around campus late at night. Ronald Stem was a friend of mine, I worked with him at WBUL, so I know with this past incident, SAFE Team really has been providing a good safe service for the students on campus,” she said.

However, Wasserman said that many people yell at her and accuse her and her co-workers of trying to run them over. She said the golf carts SAFE Team drives have governors, a device on the cart that automatically controls the cart’s speed, which averages eight to nine MPH.

“Our intent is to provide a safe transport from point A to point B,” Wasserman said. “I really want to make the point that SAFE Team is not out to kill you; our carts can only go so fast.”

In response to the common accusation that SAFE Team speed of service lags, Wasserman said there is a reason.

“We’re only slow if people are slow,” she said. She explained that when students call them and they take extra time to walk to the cart, it creates a delay in the pick up of the next escort in line.

“So we can only go as fast as people move,” Wasserman said.

In the two years she’s worked for SAFE Team, Wasserman has collected her share of stories, but what she described as one of the most ridiculous calls she has ever received was when two girls requested a ride from Kosove to Castor.

For those unfamiliar with on-campus housing, Kosove Apartments and Castor Hall are less than 100 yards away from each other.

“They were two healthy young girls, with nothing wrong with them,” she said.

Wasserman was baffled but drove them to Castor nevertheless.

“You know, it’s those kinds of calls where I’m like, ‘What?’ I don’t know what to say to them, I don’t know what to say about them. You just kind of cock your eyebrow and move on,” she said.

Wasserman’s work with SAFE Team has also provided an unexpected benefit.

“I’ve learned all sorts of different ways to get around campus, like secret sidewalks and everything,” she said.

Wasserman also described her job as one of the most coveted on campus and said she’s glad to have it.

“As long as you do the simple jobs that are required of you, it’s a lot of fun,” she said.