An Indian-American senior at Rutgers University, N.J., just made late nights on campus safer for students. Starting this semester, students can text a request for two students to accompany them if they are alone and feel unsafe. Daniel Reji, an entrepreneurial student who began thinking about such a service in his sophomore year while researching sexual assault on campuses nationwide, came up with SafeHalo, a rapid response system if a student feels alone and unsafe on the road at night.
His research showed students found it safer to move around in groups of two or three at night.
“The same way you get an Uber, I thought, what if you could request two students to walk you home – judgment free, stigma free, actually free?” Rejiis quoted saying in a press release from Rutgers. He is a marketing major with a concentration in entrepreneurship at Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick. Both his parents are of Indian origin. Reji started SafeHalo with Jamie Farren, a School of Communication and Information senior.
SafeHalo ran for 14 Fridays in the fall of 2016. Twenty students were thoroughly vetted and volunteered to be “Halos” fielding two to three calls per Friday. Social media did the rest to spread the word about it after the volunteers put their contact details and instructions on the university student sites.
Soon SafeHalo realized just Fridays was not enough, and took on five nights a week. Word also spread beyond Rutgers. Students from Emerson College in Boston and the University of Oregon reached out and Reji’s team is helping teams at both universities recruit “Halos” and launch the service.
Now the team is focusing on building a service other universities can buy into, a scalable business model and an app platform that could make it easier for new schools to bring SafeHalo to their campuses. Since the traction and viability of the system has been proved in one school, Reji says, “This year is all about scaling.”