SU, student groups react to decision not to reinstate subsidized Uber program

Curran Neenan | News Editor

Students are questioning the University’s decision not to reinstate its subsidized Uber program.

The Uber initiative, which was established fall 2018 after a string of armed robberies in off-campus neighborhoods, fully subsidized two rides per day for students to and from campus.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Administrative Officer Hank Webber said at the time that the subsidized Ubers cost the University “hundreds of thousands of dollars at minimum.”

The University made it clear at the time that the program was only a stopgap, meant to give students a safe path to housing north of campus during renovation of the overpass. The administration resisted student pressure to reinstate the program during a similar string of robberies last semester.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Rob Wild said the University is focused on instituting sustainable solutions to its security infrastructure, rather than short-term fixes like Ubers.

“You can quote me on this: nothing is more convenient than Ubers,” Wild said. “The circulator and Campus2Home expansions are meant to be long-term solutions.”

Senator sophomore Philip Keisler, chairman of the Campus and Residential Experience Committee, said that while SU will continue to advocate for the return of the Uber program, they are also lobbying for some permanent policy changes, such as on-demand Campus2Home shuttles and The Lofts residents being able to swipe into campus housing and vice versa.

“In the situation that you’re in The Lofts area and you live on campus, but you need to get into a Lofts building for your own safety, you should be able to do that,” Keisler said.

Keisler said he has no doubt that “the University cares about the student’s safety” and understands the cost restrictions of the free Uber program, but he wants to push back on the idea that it is not necessary.

“Part of Student Union’s job is to speak up for the student body, and we all know how effective the free Uber program is,” Keisler said.

In a statement to Student Life, Senator junior Steven Kish urged students to fill out Student Union’s safety survey, saying “we need to take concrete steps as quickly as possible” to make surrounding neighborhoods safer.

“I also hope that our leaders in Student Union and at the University will use their platform to engage in meaningful dialogue with neighboring communities to address the deep-seated systemic issues which make our neighborhoods vulnerable to violent crime,” Kish said.

Uncle Joe’s co-director David Rosenstein says Uncle Joe’s considered dipping into their SU funding to subsidize Ubers for counselors who stay until 1 a.m. for office hours, before ultimately deciding against it due to budget constraints.

“If we were to dip into those funds, that would be taking away money that we had allocated for our operational expenses,” Rosenstein said. “We wouldn’t be able to do all the things that we had planned this year.”

Rosenstein says Uncle Joe’s was able to cobble together solutions using carpools and the Campus2Home shuttle.

“Mainly we’re relying on each other,” Rosenstein said. “The services that the school is currently offering are adequately meeting our needs, but I say the word ‘adequately’ very intentionally.”

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