Campus fails to provide students with reliable transportation off campus

Shaye Lynn DiPasquale October 20, 2016 0

Elizabethtown College prides itself on being a residential campus, where a majority of students choose not to go home on the weekends. Most students will agree that residential life at Etown is comfortable due to the tight-knit community and the variety of cozy on-campus hotspots, including the Blue Bean and the Jay’s Nest. Hanging out with friends, grabbing a coffee, relaxing on the Dell—these are all fun, stress-relieving activities that are available to students while they are on campus. But for some people, getting off of campus every once in a while would offer a better chance to step away from the day to day happenings at college. The only problem is how do they get there?

“Not everyone has a car themselves and sometimes even those who have cars would rather take provided transportation,” junior SWEET Coordinator Sitara Ramjit remarked. SWEET, which stands for “Students Working To Entertain Etown,” is a branch of the Office of Student Activities that works specifically to provide fun and engaging programming for Etown students both on and off campus.

To avoid liability issues, students who sign up for transportation to off-campus SWEET events are asked to fill out a Student Field Trip/Off-Campus Event—Assumption of Risks, Release & Indemnification Form to ensure that they are aware of the safety risks of traveling off campus. This form also serves as an agreement between OSA and the student, outlining the behavioral expectations required of the student during the off-campus outing.

“We want to make sure everyone makes it there and back in one piece and providing transportation gives us that piece of mind,” Ramjit said.

Approval for off-campus transportation for any SWEET-organized event must go through Kristen Vieldhouse, the Office of Student Activities Coordinator. If for any reason, the off-campus event could entail potentially unsafe activities or be considered a large college liability, the SWEET staff must seek further approval from Marianne Calenda, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students.

Some students have expressed frustration over the way in which SWEET organizes off-campus transportation to events, calling into question both the accessibility and reliability of the organized transportation.

“I never sign up for any off campus events with SWEET because it is so hard to get a spot on the popular trips,” sophomore Kelly Simkins said. “They should offer more transportation so more people can enjoy their activities.”

Other students who have signed up to participate in SWEET events have been disappointed by seemingly last-minute cancellations.

“Last year, I signed up for the Skyzone trip, and the whole trip got cancelled,” junior Angela Weinberger stated.

According to Ramjit, the only circumstances that would prevent transportation from being provided to and from SWEET-sponsored events include lack of student interest and situations in which organized transportation is not practical. Ramjit points out that SWEET’s current sale of discounted Hershey Park in the Dark tickets at the OSA Hub is a great example of a scenario in which organized transportation would not be practical. Since the tickets can be used during a variety of weekend dates in October, the SWEET staff felt that organizing one set date to take students to Hershey Park would place too many limitations on who would be able to go.

“Even though we are an organization that works for the students of Elizabethtown College, we are still a ‘business’ in that we are concerned if the amount of money that we are putting into an event is worth it,” Ramjit stated. “Generally we want at least 20 people to sign-up for off-campus events and to use transportation to make the amount of money that we pay for a bus (which holds 48 people) worth it.”

In addition to frustrations with the off-campus transportation provided by SWEET, Etown students called Campus Security’s role in providing transportation into question. Currently, Campus Security offers transportation to and from the Elizabethtown train station and Harrisburg International airport for residential students, but is unable to help transport students to doctor’s appointments, dental appointment, counseling services, internships or any other non-emergency reasons.

“This semester, I will be needing some sort of off-campus transportation in the future because I need to go to doctor’s appointments, and I don’t know how I will get there,” sophomore Godwin Igbinedion said. “I would want to see off-campus transportation for medical services because for sports and physicals you need to go see a doctor for that.”

Sophomore Mika Thomas expressed similar views on the need for more access to off-campus medical services.

“If the school could help in some way with transportation to medical facilities, because we are a rural school and travel isn’t easy for many students,” Thomas said. But beyond increasing access to transportation for medical purposes, Thomas doesn’t understand why some students are so unsatisfied with the off-campus transportation that is already provided.

“I don’t think these complaints are relevant. If there is something going on off campus, I don’t think it’s the College’s job to take you,” Thomas said.

While the director of Campus Security Andrew Powell understands that some students are frustrated with the lack of off-campus transportation options, he doesn’t foresee any major changes being made anytime soon.

“In order for Campus Security to expand its offerings, it would mean an expansion of staffing and other resources, which is challenging,” Powell said. “Currently, there are no plans to increase off-campus transportation with our current staffing levels.”

While the majority of students seem to have their own set of diverse issues with the availability of off-campus transportation, almost every student seemed to agree on one specific suggestion: organizing bus trips to Lancaster and other local cities on weekends.

“The activities sent out in the Weekender become kind of pointless when they are outside of Elizabethtown if students don’t have the ability to get there,” first-year Savannah Martinez said.

Fortunately for the campus community, SWEET is already working toward meeting this particular demand.

“That was actually brought to our attention recently, and as programmers, we want to consider all the minor details of doing something like this,” Ramjit commented. “We are definitely leaning toward the fact that it is possible and feasible.”

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