Editorial: No longer safe

Safe Ride vehicles’ behavior threatens student safety

Editorial Board

For countless students on campus and across the nation, going to university is not only a time for learning and personal growth, but also a time for seeking new experiences and having fun. Thus, the university’s role is not only to facilitate learning and collaboration, but also to ensure that the students at the university are safe and feel like they can have fun without fear for their safety. This sense of safety while on campus will be irrevocably changed if Safe Ride vehicles no longer allow intoxicated students onboard, and this action may cause much more harm than good.

From the shuttle system to police escorts, Case Western Reserve University has established many resources for students to feel safe, but the one resource that stands out above all is the Safe Ride system. Established in 2009, Safe Ride vehicles run from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. and allow students to request rides across campus within specific boundaries. These vehicles ensure that students can return to their dorms or place of residence safely and without incident late at night. 

After the shooting of a student last year, one of the major actions taken by the CWRU administration was to extend the Safe Ride hours, recognizing that this would help many students feel safer while on campus. However, if students who are under the influence are not allowed into the vehicles, it leaves many students no recourse but to walk home, often very late at night.

According to fifth-year student Rohan Krishna, when he tried to help an intoxicated student into a Safe Ride, the student was refused by the driver because the student was visibly drunk. The driver told them that unless they cancelled the ride, the driver would call the police and emergency services.

Another student, who asked to remain anonymous, said they called the police to confirm this policy and were also told by CWRU dispatch that drivers would call campus police and emergency responders if an intoxicated student attempted to board a Safe Ride vehicle.

This information implies that intoxicated students are no longer allowed onto Safe Ride vehicles, but according to a statement from CWRU, this may not necessarily be true.

No policy has changed,” the university statement said. “The primary responsibility of our drivers is to transport passengers in the safest manner possible. On occasion, potential passengers have been so intoxicated that they pose a risk to others in the vehicle and/or the driver’s ability to concentrate fully on operating the vehicle. In those instances, the driver is expected to contact a supervisor or dispatch for guidance.”

This is a reasonable expectation, but if drivers reject all intoxicated students, it will almost certainly result in unsafe behavior. Without the option of a Safe Ride to take students home, students are not discouraged from drinking, but instead forced to walk home late at night or seek other forms of transportation. This also seems to imply that drunk students do not deserve the same safety that sober students do, even though they are much more vulnerable to theft and assault when walking at night.

Not only does this force intoxicated students to walk around late at night, it also raises questions regarding how students will be able to get home if they feel unsafe in other situations. Many other Safe Ride systems on other campuses focus on the high rate of sexual assaults on university campuses, with current statistics stating that one in five women at university experience sexual assault. Not all intoxication is voluntary, and in the event that a student is drugged or drunk against their will, will Safe Ride drivers still turn them away?

Students should never disrespect the drivers who help them home, but drivers are still paid employees of the university tasked with transporting students across campus at night. This is a system built on mutual respect, and while drivers should still have the prerogative to call the police if students pose a risk to them, if there is not a significant risk, then drivers should still be able to fulfill their responsibility to send students home.

All of the above are questions that we must answer if drivers turn away intoxicated students. Where does CWRU draw the line? Extensions of this potential policy could threaten the medical amnesty granted to students who are severely intoxicated and call emergency services, and lead to further restrictions on what students can and cannot do on campus. 

This information was not made public, and with the contradicting information that the university is providing to students, this new behavior seems to imply that the safety of students ranks beneath the efficiency of Safe Ride services. It should not be unreasonable to ask that students be notified of changes in services structured around and for students. 

We as a campus must remain vigilant about student safety, especially after one student was shot and another was hit by a Safe Ride vehicle in the past year. Ultimately, this campus is built for and around students, and student safety should remain a major priority. This is greatly threatened by a potential Safe Ride policy change. Without the Safe Ride system, students are only pushed into making more dangerous decisions. Until then, tie up your sneakers and get ready to walk up the Elephant Stairs next Friday night.