A group of Lehigh University students are creating a peer-networked campus security task force program in collaboration with the Lehigh University Police Department to help make campus a safer place.
The program, known as Lehigh Night Hawks, was founded by five students working alongside Lehigh Police Chief Jason Schiffer and Jennifer Swann, professor of biological sciences and an ombudsperson.
The group is planning to add additional services into the Hawkwatch App that will provide an alternative to contacting the police for non-emergency concerns, as well as provide a late night transportation system and extra assistance for both Gryphons and LUPD officers. The services provided by the task force would include lockouts, door props, transportation and walk home services.
Schiffer said one of the roles would be walking escorts for students who may be hesitant to ask for a similar service provided by LUPD.
The project came after a campus transportation service called ‘Take a Ride Around Campus Safely’ (TRACS) ended after 31 years of service in September 2018. TRACS provided students with safe rides from 10:45 p.m. through 2:15 a.m. to on- and off-campus housing.
Beginning as a Mountaintop initiative, Night Hawks was originally a team of two students who planned to showcase why a program like Lehigh Night Hawks was needed.
“We are hoping that if the students run it rather than the staff or faculty, the students will have better insight into that behavior and be able to control it better,” Swann said.
Schiffer said he approached the group with the idea of creating a potential student-led safety coalition. Schiffer told Swann he would like to engage students as a resource to provide services to other students on campus.
“One of the things I would really like to do is really reduce the barrier that may exist for someone to call for a service like that,” Schiffer said.
The Night Hawks team has since increased to five members, each with their own respective responsibilities.
Zion Lewis, ‘22, and Ariana Simms, ‘23, were the original members of the team. Lewis said his first few years at Lehigh were difficult, and this project provided him with an opportunity to branch out on campus.
“I realized that I had to do some growing and wanted to grow,” Lewis said. “I always thought to myself while doing this that this is the way I get my legacy known.”
Swann said the addition of team members has helped the group manage the workload. Lewis and Simms are also upperclassmen and the group needed some younger students to take over after they graduate.
Emma Flinchbaugh, ’24, and Precious Omoike, ‘25, are two of the younger members of the group. Flinchbaugh is in charge of project branding while Omoike is in charge of outreach.
“Helping create something that’s going to last a really long time and make students excited and feel comfortable at Lehigh is impactful to me,” Flinchbaugh said.
Lewis, Simms, Flinchbaugh, Omoike and the fifth team member Zach Stern, ’24, are currently working on social media pages and surveys to gauge students’ reactions to the initiative, with hopes to finish and implement the project for the 2022-2023 school year.