The University of Texas (UT) at Austin has announced the West Campus Ambassadors pilot program, a specialized safety, cleaning, and hospitality team dedicated to the revitalization of Austin’s West Campus neighborhood.
The West Campus Ambassadors program is the latest safety investment in the West Campus neighborhood since the UT system’s board of regents allocated $8 million for improvements in 2020.
Since that time, UT has installed high activity location observation (HALO) cameras, opened a UT Police Department satellite office, and significantly increased the presence of UTPD foot and bicycle patrols, resulting in an appreciably more visible law enforcement presence. The most recent patrol increases occurred during the spring.
“The safety of our students, faculty, and staff is the board of regents’ top priority, and we fully support the West Campus Ambassadors program,” said Chairman Eltife. “Reviving and restoring the West Campus neighborhood is essential. It will produce much-needed change.”
UT Austin President Jay Hartzell added, “A thriving neighborhood bolsters the vitality of UT Austin, and we are committed to creating an environment that is safe and welcoming and that befits a world-class research university.”
The West Campus Ambassadors program will include two teams of Ambassadors: Safety Ambassadors and Cleaning Ambassadors who will operate on foot, bicycle, and by truck.
Between 3:30 p.m. and 3 a.m., the Safety Ambassadors will be an on-site presence on foot and bicycle, and by truck, sharing safety resources and tips, escorting residents to their destinations in the late evening, monitoring the region for unwanted activity, discouraging panhandling, working with local law enforcement to address other problematic situations, and serving as another set of eyes in the area.
From 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the Cleaning Ambassadors will provide daily cleaning services, including litter and trash collection, weed abatement, graffiti and sticker removal, pressure washing, and cleaning of street fixtures (benches, trash cans, etc.). In addition, the Cleaning Ambassadors will provide hospitality functions such as greeting visitors, providing directions and homeless outreach and de-escalation.
The West Campus neighborhood will be divided into two zones, and students and staff can coordinate an Ambassador by calling or texting a dedicated hotline.
The West Campus Ambassadors are supported by a growing list of over two dozen businesses and community groups in the area. The pilot program will be managed by Block by Block, a national leader in urban renewal and business district restoration. Block by Block has been at work in Austin for over seven years, providing similar services to the Downtown Austin Alliance and the South Congress Improvement Association.
“UT Austin is a great place, and we are excited to hit the ground running in West Campus,” said James Earehart, operations manager of Block by Block. “We want to thank the UT leadership for their support of and trust in our Ambassadors. Our experience in other cities—and right here in Austin—combined with our training program will enable our team to provide the necessary services and expertise to the revitalization of West Campus.”