COVID-19: Public Safety team offers students rides home

March 24, 2020

Public Safety Director Debbie Fox, left, and transport supervisor Sharon Oster prepare to offer students rides home.
When Bellarmine University had to make the difficult decision to ask students to leave the residence halls as a precaution against the threat of coronavirus, Debbie Fox, director of Bellarmine’s Office of Public Safety, had an immediate idea.
“We can help get those students home,” she said.
Fox’s department announced that any student who needed a ride to their permanent residence anywhere in a two-hour radius could hop aboard one of the three shuttles that usually transports students around campus. Bellarmine’s public safety team also offered to take anyone who remained in residence halls last week to Kroger or the pharmacy.
The service was an example of the countless ways the university has met the coronavirus crisis with a sense of service. Nearly every unit has stepped up in its own way. The School of Continuing and Professional Studies offered shopping services to its Veritas group, which consists of learners over age 54 in the Louisville area. Bellarmine's Alumni Association collected messages of encouragement from alumni to current students. The College of Health Professions donated an inventory of personal protective equipment to front-line healthcare workers.
“At Bellarmine there really is a community, family spirit here,” Fox said. “You have amazing people here who step up and say ‘I’ve got that.’… It’s the Bellarmine way.”
Public Safety ended up fielding several requests for trips home in the Louisville area, plus two students who asked for rides to the airport before flying back home to California. The students, a junior and a sophomore, were on the same flight. Sharon Oster, the transport supervisor, drove them.
“She wanted to do that,” Fox said. “They were very grateful. We said ‘take care of each other and call us when you get there,’ you know, just like a mom would.” 
Fox said they set up each shuttle, which have several benches, for social distancing with students sitting six feet apart.  
“We’ve been intentional about what we’re doing,” she said. 
Fox said the offer to give rides home is indicative of the relationship Public Safety has with the campus community on a regular basis. The unit covers general functions of campus security and transportation but also goes above and beyond for individuals, as they need it.     
“We’re not sworn officers, so we’re not police,” she said. “We’re more like ambassadors for the university. We do all kinds of things. … We’re always looking for ways to step up to serve the community.”
That includes giving students escorts or rides on campus past 10:30 p.m., when the shuttle service ends, whenever they’re requested. In the past, they’ve made pickups at the airport for students moving to campus.     
“That’s the Bellarmine environment; it’s all about hospitality,” Fox said. “And we balance between hospitality and safety.”
This Saturday, Public Safety was on hand once again to help Residence Life move the final batch of students off-campus as the university transitions to online classes only for the rest of the semester.  
“I wanted to make it easy as possible for everyone,” she said.

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