Pitt van policy an issue for students

By Simone Cheatham

‘ ‘ ‘ A new University transportation policy spurred discussion among Student Government Board… ‘ ‘ ‘ A new University transportation policy spurred discussion among Student Government Board and student organization members at Tuesday night’s board meeting. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Members of Jumpstart, Keep It Real, Outdoors Club, the University Snowboarding Team and the Institute for Industrial Engineers voiced their concerns and possible revisions for adjusting to the new University Fleet Services policy to fit student groups’ needs. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ The new policy places age restrictions on the drivers of University vehicles and requires an adviser to accompany students in a vehicle for all round trips more than 500 miles. Drivers also must abide by time limits for trips more than 250 miles. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Joe Casanova, a 24-year-old driver for Jumpstart, said he thought the new policy was ludicrous, especially because he is the oldest member of the 20 people on his team. Under the new policy, which requires that a driver must be 25 years old to drive a vehicle seating eight or more seats, Casanova said none of the members could drive the 15-passenger vans needed for the group’s study sessions and classroom assistance time. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘Our program is extremely important to the community,’ said Casanova. ‘We haven’t been able to go to our sessions this week because of this, and we go at least two times a week. How are you going to try to impede on what we’re doing like this?’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Keep It Real president Brigette Koreny said the new policy makes student groups compete with one another for available vehicles ‘mdash; those that seat seven passengers and can be driven by 21-year-olds. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘Now it’s about who can fill out the forms the fastest,’ said Koreny. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Student groups like the University Snowboarding Team, which travels out of state regularly, will also be affected by the new rules. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Member Brian Cain said taking trips would be more expensive and a big hassle for the group. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘This policy will destroy our club,’ said Cain. ‘How is any club supposed to do anything? How are we even supposed to have clubs here now?’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Member Jonathan Oblock agreed. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘Our last trip was about 4,000 miles round trip,’ said Oblock. ‘This policy will put a huge strain on us and basically eliminate the trips we can go on.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ The policy went into effect the week before spring break, causing student groups with upcoming trips to scramble to find transportation. Pitt administrators allowed alternative spring break trips to take their requested vans, but student groups must now figure out how to adjust to the new rules. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Dean of Students Kathy Humphrey said she and other administrative officials are trying to get student groups adjusted, especially the groups that need transportation immediately. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘I’m going to do everything I can to help you,’ said Humphrey to the student group members. ‘Even if I have to get in there and drive myself, I’m going to help you. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘Changing the policy is not an option. We have to find ways to change,’ she said. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ But SGB and student groups think some aspects should be amended. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Board member Alexa Jennings said she would like to eliminate the rule stating that an adviser must accompany students on trips of 500 miles or more. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘As a member of a small student organization, I can tell you that I meet with my adviser maybe once a year,’ said Jennings. ‘I can’t ask her to come with us on trips. That’s not her job, and I can’t ask her to do that. I think that should be reconsidered.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ SGB President Kevin Morrison agreed, especially because the board cannot fund or reimburse advisers for going on trips. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘The policy is obviously targeted toward how it works at Pitt,’ said Morrison. ‘But the advisers have to pay out of pocket to go. We can’t expect them to spend their weekends and their money going on trips. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘This is definitely a battle worth fighting,’ he said. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Morrison said the policy showed the discrepancy between ‘working for students vs. working with students.’ The policy was set up to protect students, as well as the University, from legal, liability and safety issues, but the administration did little consulting with student groups to get their feedback, he said. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘Administrative officials won’t meet with all of you, but they will meet with us because they consider us to be the voice of the students,’ said Morrison. ‘So talk to other groups. E-mail us and come to office hours. We want to hear your concerns and ideas so we can work together on this.’