IUSA recommends bus feeBy Eric Seymour
At its meeting on Thursday night, November 12, the Indiana University Student Association voted 51-9 to support a mandatory fee for all students which would provide unlimited access to the campus and city bus systems. The vote came amidst a small but vocal opposition in the student congress, as well as heavy opposition from the student body in general. The proposal now goes to IU-Bloomington Chancellor Kenneth Gros Louis, then to President Myles Brand who will present it to the board of trustees.
This proposal, known formally as the Universal Transportation Proposal, would initiate a fee that would appear on students' bursar bills. A sliding scale for the fee is included, costing from $70 per year for freshmen to $58 per year for seniors. In return, students could ride either the Campus Bus or the Bloomington Transit with their student IDs as their bus pass. Also promised are 14 new campus buses to add to the current fleet of 24, as well as more frequent daytime service and late-night weekend.
These basic details are where the agreement on the plan ends, as evidenced by the hour-long debate Thursday night. The most immediate objection to this plan came from students who don't ride the bus and don't want to be forced to pay for those who do. Dorm residents as well as near off-campus students have brought this complaint, pointing out that this socialization of services is downright un-American. These same students have pointed out that they already pay more in rent than students who live further away, so asking them to pay the same for bus service is unfair.
It seemed that all of the non-IUSA students in attendance agreed with these sentiments. A doctoral student in the School of Music said, "I feel that it is not appropriate for you folks to mandate that people pay into a system they may never use." He pointed out that since, at $5000 per year, he is one of the more "highly paid" graduate students at IU, but would pay "1.5% of my annual salary to subsidize a system I won't use at all."
John Clancy, the head of the Graduate Student Organization, said that he couldn't speak officially for the GSO because its constitution won't allow it to take sides on such matters. Still, Clancy said the proposal "is not conducive to graduate student needs," especially since many graduate students drive to campus from farther away than the proposed system reaches, or arrive to and leave campus at times when, even under the new proposal, buses run infrequently or not at all. Clancy was also concerned that IUSA does not effectively include graduate students, yet were making a decision that would impact them greatly.
Typical of support for the system was former InPIRG chairwoman and off-campus senator Kristina Strinka, who said that IU should implement the bus system because so many other Universities had, and because it would help reduce pollution in Bloomington. Other supporters pointed to equally unproved benefits such as safety, reduced traffic, and even less crowding on buses. This last point was contested by many, because estimates project an increase from 40% ridership to 90% ridership among students--more than doubling bus riders but not coming close to doubling the number of buses.
Many in attendance were troubled by the attitude displayed by many IUSA members toward their supposed constituents. Realizing early on how important and contentious the issue was, Library and Information Science graduate student representative Matt Kingston proposed that the fee be placed before the entire student body as a referendum. After a mini-debate on this amendment, it was defeated 50-4. Responding to this, off-campus senator Matthew Mutersbaugh said "we just decided that students aren't smart enough to decide for themselves."
Excluding these few voices, this arrogant attitude continued after the vote as several members of the congress explained why the voted for it. Honors Division representative Will Drake claimed that all those who opposed the new fee are being "selfish." Optometry grad student Dave Rich went even further, pointing out that he voted against the expressed opinion of the majority of the students he represents because, as he put it, "Frankly, my constituents are a bit myopic."
If you wish to make your voice heard on this issue, you may contact Chancellor Kenneth Gros Louis at email@example.com, President Myles Brand at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find the addresses of the Board of Trustees at their home page.