The Graduate Students Association (GSA) is proposing an escort service for Middle Eastern and minority students who feel threatened by backlash from the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

On September 17, a Saudi Arabian Santa Barbara City College student was assaulted in what Sheriff’s Dept. Lt. Mike Burridge called a hate crime. At its October 9 meeting, the GSA suggested a service to counteract mental anguish and physical harm for students who feel threatened, Student Affairs Vice President Soomin Chun said. Chun plans to coordinate an open forum on the topic, but has not yet set a date.

“As an Asian-American student, it would be a horrible situation to be in fear of going out into public,” Chun said. “We as a community need to make sure that every person feels safe.”

The Community Service Organization (CSO) is helpful in increasing student safety, but that organization alone is not completely sufficient in all circumstances, Chun said. The new escort service would serve more to address the mental state of students who live in fear or feel their safety is threatened due to religion or ethnicity.

Through a combined effort of religious, ethnic and law enforcement organizations, the new volunteer-based escort service would be available to escort students not only in the vicinity of campus and Isla Vista, but also surrounding communities. People could request an escort by telephone.

Muslim Student Association President Abeer Khan said the gesture was appreciated, but that the service was unnecessary.

“I think most students on campus feel pretty safe – more safe on campus than anywhere else,” she said. “Everyone should utilize the escort service that’s already provided. No specific group needs their own escort service.”

Khalid Hanif, a member of the Muslim Student Association, said he also feels safe on campus.

“So far there have been no problems with threats or anything,” he said. “People have been pretty understanding.”

Khan said most students she knows may have been frightened at the beginning of the quarter, but supportive messages from campus administration and the campus’ focus on tolerance have helped even those students who were uneasy feel much safer.

UCSB Police Captain Michael Foster said the police would support a new organization if students wanted it.

“Obviously we want a safe campus, and anything people want to do to help promote that, we want to stand behind,” he said. “Whether there’s a need or not, that’s a personal perception.”