University responds to petition regarding SafeRide policy change

    Northwestern responded to a student petition regarding SafeRide’s new policy to no longer give students rides from one off-campus location to another, apologizing for the lack of communication and promising to begin a dialogue with students. 

    Dr. Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, the assistant vice president for Student Auxiliary Services, published a letter on the Northwestern website, which details the actions that have been taken since the petition was filed. 

    According to Kirchmeier’s letter, “Providing off-campus to off-campus transportation is beyond the scope of this program’s intent. Additionally, based on a conversation with the city manager’s office earlier this year, we learned that if SafeRide continues to operate the off-campus location to off-campus location service, we are violating the city ordinance associated with these types of vehicles.” 

    This violation of the city ordinance, she said, runs the risk of losing the SafeRide service altogether. 

    Kirchmeier met with ASG Vice President for Student Life Anna Kottenstette and ASG Director of Transportation Haley Hinkle. She also reviewed Evanston city ordinances and SafeRide’s mission and policies. Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Patricia Telles-Irvin also met with ASG representatives to hear their point of view and answer questions. They held discussions with Bernard Foster, Coordinator of SafeRide. 

    Kottenstette, a communications studies senior, said though she was frustrated students were not part of the discussion before the policy was changed, meeting with the administration helped her see the reasons for the change. 

    “Initially I was very much like, ‘Why weren’t we consulted with this? How could they make this decision with no student input?’” She said. “[We] sat down with Julie … and just kind of went through the legislation piece by piece. She explained a lot of their reasoning to us. She was very understanding with our dissatisfaction with not being contacted.” 

    Kottenstette said they also discussed the next steps for transportation, including improving the shuttle system. In the letter, Kirchmeier said they learned that students are so upset about the new policy because they “are not satisfied with the frequency or reliability of the current shuttle bus system on the Evanston campus.” 

    “Ultimately we just kind of outlined each next step in terms of creating a task force that will look at shuttles, and SafeRide, and walking routes, and bike paths, and basically anything that has to do with students getting around on or off campus,” Kottenstette said.

    The task force will have student input, she said. Similarly, students will now be a part of a university parking committee. Representatives from ASG, the shuttle system and SafeRide will also be doing a comprehensive analysis within university services, which Kottenstette hopes to finish by the end of spring. 

    As far as off-campus to off-campus SafeRide rides, Kottenstette is not optimistic.  

    “I don’t think we’ll get it reinstated, honestly,” she said. “I think there are too many other ordinances within Evanston … that kind of prohibit us from using SafeRide in the way that it was being used before. However, I do think that the task force is kind of looking at shuttles and looking at how else students get around off campus … I do think we’ll be able to find a middle ground for students where we can provide safe, reliable transportation off campus.”  


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