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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

An off-campus failure

Published: April 20, 2007
Section: Opinions

Following the demolition of Ridgewood this summer, the Brandeis administration and Student Union will be faced with a high percentage of students off-campus. In the past, the Union has been much more proactive in addressing the needs of off-campus students. This year's off-campus senator, Jonathan Winstone '07, and the Union as a whole has completely ignored their responsibilities to this portion of their constituency.

Winstone's predecessor, Miriam Sievers '06, along with current Union President, Alison Schwartzbaum '08, were instrumental in helping improve the lives of off-campus students: they planned and initiated a Waltham shuttle that runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. This shuttle has undoubtedly improved the lives of commuter students, providing transportation to and from campus that was formerly not afforded to students.

In the past year, no progress has been made in helping improve the lives of off-campus students. In an op-ed published on September 15th, 2006 in The Hoot, it was suggested that the Union reform the shuttle and Branvan disbanding the Branvan in favor of running the shuttle all night. The op-ed, Twice the Transportation, by editor-in-chief Andy Meyers, argued that the shuttle is far more efficient and dependable than the Branvan. Many students agreed with this assessment, as the shuttle follows a specific schedule, as opposed to the Branvan, which often leaves students stranded.

The Student Union, specifically Schwartzbaum and Sievers, should be applauded for their work in getting this program enacted. However, a program is never perfect on its first-run and it would be foolish not to revise it to better serve its users. The shuttle times should be changed to better reflect class times.

For example, a shuttle departs from campus at noon daily. This is inconvenient for students whose classes end at that time. Instead, staggering departures so a student can leave the classroom and immediately get on a shuttle would be much more useful than forcing them to wait 40 minutes for the next shuttle.

In addition to the shuttle, next year's Union has other issues to address. Many students have found the refusal to issue dormitory keys to off-campus students to be harsh and annoying, forcing commuters to wait outside of residence halls to be let in by other students. This is a policy that the Union could easily change.

As the University expands its borders into the greater Waltham community, the Union is going to be forced to lobby organizations that exist outside our campus. Currently, the city of Waltham does not have an ordinance requiring homeowners, renters, and businesses to shovel walkways. As an effect, walkways in town, particularly on South Street, remain covered in snow and often times impassible.
On countless winter mornings, students can be seen walking on the road among vehicle traffic as walkways are not safe enough to travel on. This is clearly not safe, as cars often travel in excess of 40 mph and pass dangerously close to pedestrians. Both the Union and next year's off-campus senator should pressure the city to change this policy to require residents to keep our walkways safe and fine those who fail to do so.

With the rise in commuter students next year, the Union will be forced to address the issues of its off-campus constituency. Uncommitted and ineffective leaders such as Winstone will not be useful in addressing the needs of an expanding segment of the population and we can only hope that the Union's duties are no longer neglected.

Editor's Note: Kevin Montgomery has communted from Moody Street for the past three years.