By Shani Lewis
Our campus needs a shuttle now more than ever before. We are living in the midst of a pandemic and need to take every precaution we can to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19. The inter-campus shuttle had been provided in past years to safely transport students between both the Wilf and Beren Campuses so students could meet up for campus events and access both Wilf and Beren amenities. As a consistent user of the shuttle, I cannot begin to fathom why the shuttle is still shut down.
The shuttle ran after school hours, so the fact that most classes are not being held in person right now is not a valid reason for it to still be closed. It cannot be because of financial reasons, because YU raised tuition costs last year and saved money by not running the shuttle service since March. It cannot be from the lack of students who would use the shuttle, because students have returned to both campus dormitories and many students are living in the Washington Heights area. It cannot be from lack of need to go between the campuses, because school amenities, such as the library, are open and events, such as the recent election watch party, are taking place. This leaves only one legitimate reason: COVID-19.
While COVID-19 is a legitimate reason for closing down many things, it is not a rational reason for not reopening the shuttle. The school cannot open its amenities, host events and expect students to travel between the campuses safely by utilizing the MTA subway system. Although the subway ridership numbers have decreased in recent months, there is still a substantial number of people using the subway system everyday. In fact, MTA reports the number of riders that are using the train system for each day of the week, and there are more than a million riders using the subway on any given weekday. How can YU actually believe that allowing students to use the subway system is safer than using the shuttle? YU cannot track the hundreds of thousands of strangers and homeless people that take the subway each day, many of whom are statistically positive, but YU can track all of the students who go to YU events, enter YU buildings, and, if reopened, ride the YU shuttle. How can it possibly be safe for students to attend events and use the same amenities when YU is subjecting students to the health risks of the subway system in order to do so? YU is withholding the use of a safer transportation option in the name of COVID-19. That statement is an oxymoron.
It is especially important for the shuttle to be open and available to the Beren student body. Many Beren campus students have noted their preference of the Wilf Campus library over the Beren one. However, in order to use the Wilf library, a person needs to be properly social distancing and testing negative every 2 weeks. This puts the women who live on the Beren Campus at an extreme disadvantage since the only way for them to get uptown is to use the subway. How are women expected to be testing negative every 2 weeks if, in order to get to the library, they have to use the subway system? Additionally, even if they do test negative, how is the school expecting them to remain negative within the 2 week span when they are taking the subway there and back, potentially everyday? If anything, not having the shuttle is putting every student at risk. Students are going to travel between campuses whether the shuttle is available to them or not. YU cannot safely open the library or hold any event in a safe environment if the students have to take transportation that is exposing them to potentially millions of people.
The shuttle was originally implemented as an amenity on campus in order to provide safe and easy transportation to the YU student body. The shuttle’s purpose is necessary now more than ever. If the safety of the student body is absolutely essential to the YU administration, there should be no reason why a safe form of transportation should be withheld from its students. By withholding a safe transportation option from students, the YU administration is subjecting by extension the entirety of the student body to an unsafe environment. YU was the first college in New York to have a positive case of COVID-19; if YU reopens the shuttle, we can avoid being the next college to have a major outbreak.