Dozens of college students in Austin, Texas, looking for a safe ride home from campus last weekend were greeted by a surprise chauffeur.
Movie star Matthew McConaughey showed up on the University of Texas campus for an hour to drive golf carts for SURE Walk, a program that escorts students to and from campus late at night.
SURE — which stands for Students United for Rape Elimination — was founded in 1983, to combat sexual assault and violence on and off campus by offering free walks home to students. The school's student government reached out to McConaughey, an Austin native, to help promote the service, which he did, to the delight and shock of many students.
"A lot of people were surprised and kind of thrilled by what happened," SURE Walk director Krishan Sachdev says.
Sachdev explained that the program expanded last year to include golf carts, like the one McConaughey captained, and an SUV, in an effort to make the experience more user-friendly. Since then, he says, use of the service has increased by 200%.
In addition to his driver duties, McConaughey posed for pictures with students and shot a candid promotional video for the program.
Sachdev says student government has undertaken efforts to beef up and publicize the program after a high-profile murder on campus last year.
Whether the program can make a larger dent in the rate of sexual assault, which often occurs behind closed doors between people who know each other — or even between significant others — remains to be seen. Nevertheless, colleges across America have become more aggressive in their attempts to combat rape and sexual violence in recent years, with current and former students taking the initiative in many of the most high-profile cases, often finding themselves at odds with administrators in the process.
Still, Sachdev hopes that McConaughey's appearance will help publicize the program to students who might otherwise hesitate to use it.
SURE Walk recently expanded its operating hours from 10 p.m.–2 a.m. to 7 p.m.–2 a.m.
"Matthew McConaughey really, really helped us in trying to normalize this service and trying to bring it to students' attention that we're here and we're here to stay," Sachdev says.
As UT students learned over the weekend, there's nothing like a world-famous movie star rolling up in a golf cart to make asking for help seem, ironically, normal.