Instead of earning a free cab ride in New York City, UC Santa Cruz students earned RADD apparel in the “cash cab” at the Public Safety and Resources Fair on April 7. Converted to imitate its namesake from the popular television show, student police ambassadors inside the cab challenged students on their knowledge of drunk driving.
Alongside the cash cab, a firetruck and many colorful booths greeted students at the Quarry Plaza during the fourth installment of the Public Safety and Resources Fair. Students familiarized themselves with resources to help with safe driving, drug abuse, psychological distress and sexual activity, among others. Organizations on and off campus promoted well-being in all aspects of student life.
“By learning of the available resources, students could make safer choices and stay healthier and happier,” said Student Health Outreach and Promotion (SHOP) coordinator Paul Willis. “When you’re in college, you have more resources than you’ll ever have for the rest of your life, and a lot of people miss out on it.”
RADD, a non-profit promoting safe driving, and Cruz Control, a service that drives intoxicated customers, joined the campus fire and police departments in the Quarry Plaza parking lot. As students walked closer to the bookstore, they encountered booths arranged by Txt.wiser — a campaign to keep drivers from texting, as well as more familiar on-campus services including SHOP, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) and the Sustainability Office.
“If you’re a part of the broader campus, you’ll know that you can get screened for HIV, that you can buy eight condoms for a dollar, that there are different ways to get safe rides and that you can come into SHOP and have a confidential conversation about stuff you’re worried about,” Willis said.
When Nader Oweis took his position as Chief of police in fall 2012, he discussed with administrators the possibility of promoting the campus police and fire departments to the student body. He imagined a public fair to explain the department’s role beyond punitive and emergency situations.
“When I first got here it didn’t seem like the students knew what the police department really was, or that it even existed,” Oweis said. “We decided we should promote it through education and training.”
The first fair took place in fall 2012 outside McHenry Library. The campus police and fire departments, the Bike Co-op, TAPS and the Student Health Center were the original participants. Since then, the fair has attracted more organizations and moved to a more central location at the Quarry Plaza.
A year and a half after the fair’s inception, Oweis was at the police department booth seeking student pledges to drive safely, soberly and without texting. Nearly a hundred colorful signed pledge sheets were tacked to a board, forming a mosaic illustrating the campaign’s progress.
Cruz Control gives individuals an alternative to drunk driving. Their workers bike to a customer’s location and drive them safely home in their own car. RADD had a similar mission to discourage drunk driving. Their cash cab promoted the non-profit’s latest campaign — a rewards program which offers incentives to designated drivers at bars and restaurants. Incentives include free appetizers, soft drinks or reduced cover charges at participating locations.
“We’re trying, in our own little way, to change the stigma about being a designated driver,” said RADD representative Lindsey Peters.
Across the parking lot, the fire department taught students to use a fire extinguisher correctly and allowed passers-by to try on their firefighting gear. As flames spit up from a portable grill, students garbed in iconic yellow firefighting coats extinguished them.
By the end of the three-hour fair, hundreds of students had passed through the plaza. Even prospective students taking part in a campus tour moseyed among the booths and the cash cab.
“It was a really positive event and we got great feedback from the people who participated,” said fair coordinator Rosemary Anderson. “To me, it’s always the most gratifying when students tell me, ‘Oh I didn’t know about this resource and now I do.’ That’s really why we do it.”