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More Mismanagement

The UC's bicycle subsidy is a flawed solution to a thorny campus issue

The Undergraduate Council recently voted to subsidize and, subsequently, increase subsidies for the purchase of bicycles, skateboards, and scooters by students with demonstrated financial need living in the Quad, Dudley House, or off-campus. This scope was expanded at a second meeting to include Dunster and Mather Houses. It is heartening that the UC is looking to directly address financial disparities on campus, but the details of this specific plan leave much to be desired.

First, not all students with financial need who could benefit from the program are eligible. While the UC was right to extend the program to Dunster and Mather Houses, other students—including those in Leverett, which is merely the width of Cowperthwaite Street closer to the Yard than Dunster is—face comparable traveling distances to those who live in the areas in which residents are eligible.

This arbitrary exclusion is far from the only problem with the new initiative. An alternative method proposed at the first of these two meetings, which suggested the UC purchase bikes for eligible students to use and then return to the Council’s possession was not selected. One representative argued that this method would stigmatize using the bicycles that the UC purchased.

This line of logic is misguided. There are simple ways to avoid this issue, including purchasing a diverse assortment of bicycles, skateboards, and scooters and orchestrating discreet pick-ups and drop-offs, to overcome any potential stigma of using UC-sponsored transportation. This failed proposal would have been financially savvier, too: By allowing the UC to maintain ultimate ownership of the bicycles, skateboards, and scooters it purchased, the cost of the program would be one-time instead of annual.

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Furthermore, while this program could have been better-implemented, it would have remained problematic due to the nature of the transportation it subsidizes. Since Boston experiences snow and rain for much of the year, bicycles, skateboards, and scooters are difficult to use on a regular basis. Additionally, many students have expressed discontent with the main form of transport to the Quad—the Quad shuttle system—despite its expanded schedule and the plethora of mobile applications aimed at tracking it. A potentially more workable solution to students’ transit woes would be for the UC to instead consider a ride-sharing service subsidy.

These monetarily and practically savvier alternatives would have been shrewd for the UC, which has poorly managed its finances in the past. That the body tapped into its Emergency Fund to finance student grants during the first of these two meetings indicates that this trend shows no signs of abating. Given the majority of the UC’s operating budget comes from students, it should be more responsible with its spending. It would do well to remember that its power is derived from students’ and family members’ pocketbooks, and that this necessitates a degree of fiduciary responsibility that UC has not shown.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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