The drivers at 5-SURE don’t mind if you’re a regular. In fact, they are more than happy to pick you up, whether it’s your first time calling or a thrice-weekly habit.
Students United for Risk Elimination (5-SURE) is an organization that dispatches drivers to students in need of a ride on campus. The program emerged in the 1970s as Students United for Rape Elimination (SURE). In its early days, SURE had no cars and functioned more as a buddy-system service, sending male volunteers on bikes to walk with students on their way home.
This system ran into some controversy, with many critics arguing that the service was chauvinistic and an improper way to address the problem of female rape, so teams of female volunteers were added to the group to begin escorting students home.
Demand for SURE’s escorts dwindled in the 1980s, and the organization eventually stopped running. However, increased interest in the group’s services in the 1990s brought the organization back from the dead — this time with golf carts. The carts helped ridership surge and rooted 5-SURE into campus culture.
Today, 5-SURE is University-funded and operates seven days a week — except during finals and dead week — from 9:00 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. Along with a golf cart, the organization now has a car and an enthusiastic team of student drivers.
On one Saturday night, Amelia Herrera ’12, Jodie Ha ’14 and Laura Potter ’14 manned the front desk, with one of the three occasionally stepping out to pick someone up, while frequent bouts of laughter carried through the lobby of Old Union.
“I work for 5-SURE because it’s a good program,” Herrera said. “In the light of several recent incidents on campus, it’s important for students to have a means of getting home safe, and I’m more than happy to do my part to make that a reality.”
“Being a driver is a really entertaining job, you get to hear lots of stories about where people are coming from and where they’re going,” Ha added.
When asked if she could recount a specific memorable experience she had while driving, Ha whispered to Herrera and the two burst out laughing.
In the name of driver confidentiality, the two decided to paraphrase.
“You meet some interesting people,” Ha said with a chuckle.
“Sometimes you get people who can be a little rowdy, but I’ve never had an experience where someone has been out of control or where I have felt unsafe as a driver,” Herrera said.
According to Potter, “There are definitely regulars, people who we see almost every night, but for some people who live in Oak Creek [Apartments] or EV [Escondido Village], they need us to be able to get home safely each night.”
“It’s actually kind of funny, I’ll sometimes see them in the daytime and say hello, but they don’t always recognize me,” she continued.
Another round of laughter at the table hinted that this phenomenon is familiar to all 5-SURE drivers.
With services running every day until 1:45 a.m., 5-SURE drivers are in for some late nights. However, this didn’t appear to faze any of the three drivers.
“5-SURE is a very student-friendly organization, even for us as employees,” Herrera said. “If you have a midterm or a paper due, it’s not difficult to find someone to cover your shift.”
“We’re not open during finals because we’re students, too,” Ha said. “But if you’re at work and it’s a slow night with no calls coming in, it’s no problem to do some of your work while you’re at the desk.”
The fact that 5-SURE drivers are fellow students with “limited resources” is something all three women agreed they would like students to keep in mind.
“We’re not a limo service, and we don’t have a huge fleet of cars,” Herrera said. “We’re a group of one dispatcher and two drivers each night, and one of our vehicles is a golf cart that can’t go over twenty miles per hour.”
“Sometimes, we get callers who react impolitely when we tell them there will be a 15 or 20 minute wait for a ride or who treat us rudely as we’re driving them,” Ha interjected.
Despite the occasional ill-mannered passenger, Herrera, Ha and Potter all agreed that they love their job.
“I’ve picked up people from situations in which they really did feel unsafe,” Potter said. “Even if they’re drunk…as a driver you get to experience a lot of really heartwarming occasions that remind you that you’re helping people.”
“At the end of the day, there are plenty of other jobs on campus that are a lot more convenient without the late hours, but anyone who is here at 5-SURE is here to help others,” Herrera said.
With that, Herrera answered the phone and dispatched Potter to pick up someone from EV. All in a night’s work.