Update on Student Concerns about SafeRide Policy

Dear Northwestern Students,

Thank you for taking the time to voice your concerns about the clarification of the SafeRide policy regarding off-campus to off-campus rides, and subsequent enforcement, via the recent Change.org petition. It is important to me that you feel comfortable expressing your perspective about your experience and your university, and that you know your voice is heard.

I wanted to let you know that several things have occurred since the petition was sent to the Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Patricia Telles-Irvin, to include the following:

1.     Dr. Telles-Irvin met with representatives from ASG to hear their concerns, and to answer questions they had based upon your petition feedback.  

2.     In my role as Assistant Vice President for Student Auxiliary Services, I met with Anna Kottenstette, ASG Vice President for Student Life, and Haley Hinkle, ASG Director of Transportation, to further discuss these concerns.  

3.     Additional discussions were held with Bernard Foster, Coordinator of SafeRide.

4.     I conducted an additional review of both Evanston city ordinances and SafeRide’s mission and policies.

I understand from the petition that the primary concern is with the suspension of the previous off-campus to off-campus SafeRide practice.  When the university community developed SafeRide, the initial intent was to provide students safe transportation to and from campus.  Providing off-campus to off-campus transportation is beyond the scope of this program’s intent.  Additionally, based on a conversation with the city manager’s office earlier this year, we learned that if SafeRide continues to operate the off-campus location to off-campus location service, we are violating the city ordinance associated with these types of vehicles.  As such, if we reinstate the off-campus to off-campus practice we run the risk of losing the SafeRide service all together.

However, we have learned from our conversations with students that the principal reason students want the off-campus service to continue is that they are not satisfied with the frequency or reliability of the current shuttle bus system on the Evanston campus.  In order to have a voice in this arena, I reached out to Brian Peters, Assistant Vice President for University Services, and Mr. Peters has appointed both Bernard Foster and me to the university's Transportation Advisory group.  The ASG Director of Transportation is also considered a member of this group.  The intent of our involvement is to bring together information and feedback obtained by SafeRide so that Northwestern can improve all transportation services for students. 

Our hope is that this process begins a robust and inclusive dialogue that will allow the NU community to design a transportation program that works best for NU, follows and upholds all City of Evanston ordinances, and complements public transportation outlets in and around the city.

Finally, I also understand students were concerned with the perceived lack of communication about the SafeRide policy clarification and enforcement.  I have asked Anna if I could attend an ASG Student Life Committee meeting to discuss ideas they may have to better inform students about any pending or upcoming changes to policies in the future.  My hope is that these ASG students who represent our student body can provide some additional guidance to us as we move forward, with our continued intent to appropriately include student voices in our processes.

Please feel free to reach out to me with questions, and thank you again for contributing to the improvement of Northwestern University.

Dr. Julie Payne-Kirchmeier
Assistant Vice President for Student Auxiliary Services
Division of Student Affairs