This year the college has implemented a new policy, or started enforcing an old policy, that requires any vehicle travel funded by the school to be done using school vehicles. The argument, similar to the argument for almost every other policy at this school, is liability. Usually I would not mind this type of policy, but there are many problems with this requirement.
One of the greatest problems is demand. The school has a very limited number of vans and cars, so a popular weekend for conferences and sporting events becomes a logistical impossibility. To add to the confusion, students are supposed to have a faculty or staff chaperone if they go more than 20 miles from the campus. This stipulation has been waived dozens of time this school year already, because it precludes most student travel. This process is just another bureaucratic headache for students, The Office of Student Involvement, Facilities Management, and The Business Office.
Another concern is the large cost of using College fleet vehicles. Cars and vans have daily charges, and for somewhat longer trips there are additional charges per mile traveled. Driving a van to Washington DC and back for a weekend costs over $900. Compare that to the roughly $150 it would cost to drive a personal vehicle.
The unimpressive gas mileage the vehicles receive causes part of this additional cost. The cars get around 20 to 25 mpg for highway driving, and the vans get only 13 to 15 mpg. This means the cars are just over the cusp of qualifying for the Cash for Clunkers program from two years ago. Requiring the use of fleet cars when some students have much more fuel-efficient cars also has a detrimental environmental effect.
Brain Dietz, Director of Student Involvement, insists that the policy is still crucial for “reliability, dependability, and most importantly, safety.” Dietz concedes that there are a few flaws and kinks that need to be worked out. He hopes that the 20-mile rule will be abolished by next fall, and has encouraged the school to look into different options for expanding vehicle supply. Dietz also expressed that additional funding from the student activities fee is hopefully compensating for the increased cost of travel.
Generally I have no problem with this type of policy, but it seems to be that the College decided to begin enforcing before it was prepared. If most student trips go outside of a 20-mile radius and there is a large demand for cars, doesn’t it make more sense to first get rid of the 20-mile rule and increase fleet availability before requiring student adherence? Coming up with a method to checking personal cars for appropriate safety features would most likely be simpler and cheaper to implement. This way the college could also allow students with more fuel-efficient vehicles to use them and reduce gasoline use and emissions, thereby respecting the College’s commitment to sustainability.