Letter to the editor
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing this letter because I am concerned and saddened by the recent announcement that Sub-Board I (SBI) is being dissolved. I would like to echo the concerns widely stated throughout the university community and acknowledge SBI’s positive contributions to students regarding legal counsel, housing, public media (radio), health and more. I would also like to reiterate the trepidation over these funds being placed in the hands of Faculty Student Association (FSA), an organization which has been plagued with scandals for over fifty years and one which clearly has yet to earn the trust of the majority of the student body, even though it has had plenty of opportunities to do such.
Regardless of these obvious issues at hand, I write this letter from the perspective of an SBI employee who worked as a Safety Shuttle Operator for over three years – from January 2015 to my graduation in May 2018. I would like to confirm I do not speak on behalf of SBI, but rather through the lens of a past employee who experienced student impact first-hand. Throughout my time as a Safety Shuttle Operator, I never once questioned its importance to the student body. Regular riders would wait readily for our shuttle nearly every day; new riders quickly became regulars as they became aware of the services we offered.
The Shuttle served as a location of refuge during turbulent times. In the winter, it was the ability for students to get a safe, warm ride home when snow piled and wind chills regularly dipped into the negative teens. In November and December 2016, a series of knifepoint robberies shook students living in University Heights and studying late on South Campus. On Dec. 1, 2016, the string of robberies and attempted robberies resulted in a female student getting stabbed. Students who frequent South Campus and the surrounding neighborhood, and particularly students who live there, were extremely troubled and found solace in our campus-to-door service, anywhere within 1.5 miles of the university’s South Campus. SBI prepared its drivers for an uptick in ridership, and our job was to reassure the student body that their safety is important – something that students felt strongly the university did not care about. These are just some examples of situations during which students benefit in-particular from having these shuttle services.
The most important priority to keep in mind are the students who are left out by eliminating these services. On-campus housing and complexes near North Campus which provide frequent shuttle/bus services are certainly a positive amenity; yet those options may not be as accessible or affordable to some students who may opt to rent in a less expensive home in University Heights. Our ridership consisted of many international students who didn’t have vehicles. Many students who took advantage of our services were coming directly from libraries and other campus events and activities. Very importantly, many of the students who used our services were UB Campus Dining & Shops employees who work late-night shifts in Goodyear Dining Hall or the Atrium. These students relied on rides home from the Safety Shuttle. This service elimination – and the laughable suggestion the university might provide Uber or Lyft discounts so students can then spend more money to simply go home from studying or (better yet) working FOR the university – disproportionately affects students who don’t have, or cannot afford, vehicles, or students whose only option is to live in off-campus housing in a non- gated residential neighborhood.
It is wrong of the university to ask a student to decide between a job, their academics, and their safety. The elimination of SBI falls suit into a common theme – University at Buffalo questionably sharing important details to students at times when it is less likely to reply or engage (a.k.a. at the end of the semester, days before final exams). The SBI Safety Shuttle is just one piece of what SBI is – an opportunity to genuinely look out for students, by students. For Mr. Weber to state “what we found from our review is that many students weren’t aware of those services, they didn’t necessarily want those services or feel like they were needed,” and particularly the refusal from Mr. Weber or Ms. Hubbard to provide data from which they derived this bold statement is unnerving.
A fairer, student-led process is necessary to understand the importance of these services on the student body. Not understanding student needs as a representative of higher administration and furthermore providing no concrete evidence any forum was given to for the student body to provide input is inexcusable. At the very least, a clear, transparent report on every factor that went into this decision needs to be released and reviewed; an opportunity to comment needs to be given. Conflicts of interest need to be addressed. And every student who has taken advantage of these services, or simply believes they would benefit from them, needs to stand up and make their voices heard.
Anna Blatto Former SBI Safety Shuttle Operator, Class of 2018
Five similar public institutions which provide off-campus shuttle/safety services for its students:
Binghamton University – Off Campus College Transport
SUNY Fredonia – Campus Community Bus Service
Stony Brook University - PJ/SBU Shuttle
University of Pittsburgh
University of California, Berkeley