Any time a decision is made impacting student life on campus — especially in regards to a student-funded service — student input is necessary. University of Wisconsin Transportation blatantly failed to follow the proper procedures, resulting in the end of a valuable and popular service in SAFE Cab. Shame on them.
In October, the UW Transportation Services Department issued an ultimatum to SSFC: fund SAFE Walk in full or SAFE Cab would be eliminated. Though the committee may have thought this to be an idle threat, they evaluated various criteria and made their decision, which included cutting 57 percent from the amount requested for SAFE Walk, a service that is vastly underused when compared to SAFE's other services, like SAFE Cab. In accordance with the threat, UW Transportation has said they will no longer manage SAFE Cab. UW Administration would make it seem as if SSFC doomed the cab program. Clearly, this is not the case.
In a meeting with representatives from UW Transportation, it became apparent they had already planned to relieve themselves of managing SAFE Cab, regardless of SSFC's decision. Additionally, the meeting showed a collaborative effort between UW Transportation and the Office of the Dean of Students in making this decision, entirely without a student voice.
The administration can't use the argument "it's too hard to judge what students want" when they easily could have spoken with the Campus Transportation Committee, SSFC or any number of bodies. The Campus Transportation Committee is an advisory shared-governance committee, not a policy-making body. Likewise, the SSFC has no authority in setting policies, but they do have the ability to fund services, such as the various SAFE programs. SSFC is a representative body of the student population, comprised of 17 elected and appointed student members — who better to tell the administration what students want?
Aside from this gross disregard for shared governance rules, the decision-makers failed to take into account the facts. Last year, SAFE Cab provided 13,100 rides to students in need, while SAFE Walk only had 1,075 uses. At budget costs of roughly $194,000 and $116,000 respectively, it is apparent that SAFE Cab is a more cost effective and widely used service than its counterpart. SAFE Walk is an important program as well, but it puzzles me why UW Transportation would tout one service so highly over the other, especially with contradictory statistics.
Cutting the SAFE Cab program will mean another entity must manage it to keep it alive. UW Transportation has insisted a student organization or ASM be responsible for the program. Though this appears to be a noble thought, it is completely impractical. No student organization, including ASM, has the expertise or resources for maintaining such a program. Unlike UW Transportation, these groups don't have the ability to issue an infinite amount of parking tickets to help subsidize these services. The decision by UW Transportation to scrap the SAFE Cab program will ultimately cut students short of a service they are currently receiving and will cost students more in terms of segregated fees. Moreover, this will have a profoundly detrimental effect on campus safety.
In the end, it comes down to a simple trick played by the administration. Having already made up their minds on the SAFE Cab issue, they attempted to place blame on the students through the SSFC decision. As kids, our parents used to make decisions for us. Now, as students, we have administrators doing the same. Perhaps we should call the UW Transportation Director the next time we need a safe ride somewhere.
Eric Varney is the chair of ASM and is a senior majoring in finance, marketing and history.