Student Government Association members are developing a revised plan to implement a campuswide safe-rides program after university officials rejected its initial idea because of liability reasons, said an SGA representative.SGA Treasurer Brian Andrew said that Student Development Services and Campus Life said a safe-rides program, which would provide transportation to students in an effort to curb drunken driving, is simply not feasible at TCU because students cannot be responsible for driving other students.
Rather than perceiving this as a definitive “no,” Andrew said he and other representatives are redirecting the idea because they think it is an important preventative measure.
“Drunk driving is always a problem at campuses,” Andrew said. “Just because we haven’t had an accident here doesn’t mean we won’t.”
Michael Russel, associate dean of campus life, affirmed that TCU cannot have a student-run safe-rides program because of liability reasons.
“Safe-rides programs are inherently risky,” Russel said.
He said he agrees with SGA that a designated driver program is a good idea, but said it provides a risk that is not necessary for the university to assume.
Russel said if the program were to be run through a private, professional transportation company it would be much less risky because the company would assume the liability.
SGA’s newest idea is to run the program through Five Star Coach, the same company that provides shuttles from commuter lots on campus. The buses would provide free transportation to everyone with a TCU ID from Sundance Square and other areas back to campus from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, Andrew said.
Andrew said the program will only work if funded by outside sources, possibly Mothers Against Drunk Driving or a university parent’s club.
Many Greek organizations sponsor their own safe rides programs, Andrew said, but many students not involved in these groups who drink too much on the weekend and that this program would ensure they get home safe.
Phi Delta Theta offers each of its members cab vouchers that are paid for with funds from the fraternity’s Parent’s Association and an annual fundraiser, said Sam Peck, a junior finance and Spanish major and the chapter’s president.
Andrew said SGA looked into renting cabs to transport students on the weekend, but found that it would have cost close to $2,000 a weekend.
The University of Kansas runs a safe rides program through the Lawrence Bus Company, which manages all of the university’s buses. Students are charged an $18 transportation fee each semester, $5 of which is applied to the safe-rides program that operates daily from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., according to the KU on Wheels Web site.
Other schools have completely student-run safe-rides programs.
Carpool at Texas A&M University is run by 275 student volunteers and funded through sponsors, including Enterprise which provides rental cars to transport students. The six-year-old program offers rides Thursday through Saturday and sends volunteers into bars and parties to advertise the service, according to the Carpool Web site.
Some fraternities and sororities at TCU use systems similar to this. Chi Omega has designated drivers volunteer for every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, said Amanda Sittig, a junior kinesiological studies major.
Members can call the chapter room from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. and someone will pick them up and bring them home, said Sittig, president of Chi Omega.
However, other Greek organizations cannot offer this service because of liability issues.
John Wood, president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, said in an e-mail that the fraternity’s national office and its insurance company thinks having a safe-rides program “will ultimately facilitate underage drinking and reckless behavior.”
Wood, a sophomore English major, said he disagrees with the insurance company, and that until the issue is resolved, members have to provide designated drivers.
Andrew said SGA will have to ensure the new idea is feasible and find sponsors before implementing the plan, which would not start until next semester at the earliest.